CORAL GABLES, Fla. - Ron Fraser, the longtime Miami baseball coach who won two national championships with the Hurricanes and whose innovative marketing ideas helped spark a surge in the college game's popularity, has died.
Family spokesman Tony Segreto said Fraser died Sunday morning. Fraser, known as "the wizard of college baseball," had battled Alzheimer's disease for many years. It was believed that Fraser was 79, though his family's statement did not release his age or other private matters, including a cause of death.
Fraser led Miami to national titles in 1982 and 1985, taking the Hurricanes to the College World Series 12 times over his 30 years at the school. He retired in 1992 with 1,271 wins, never having a losing season in his three decades overseeing the program.
His legacy, however, may be what he did to promote the game.
From raffling car batteries, to bikini nights to even offering nine-course gourmet meals on the infield of the team's stadium, Fraser had ideas that even he called "crazy." His unusual ways proved successful, as the Hurricanes not only became a winner on the field, but one of the best-known brands in college baseball.
"I was more interested in getting the people in the stands," Fraser once said, "because I knew we'd never be really successful unless we made money."
Fraser also played a key role in getting baseball on national television. And now, the College World Series - the entire NCAA tournament, really - is a mainstay on TV, as are hundreds of regular-season games annually.
Fraser was named NCAA coach of the year three times and coached numerous national teams - including the 1992 Olympic team.
"Coach Fraser is the most influential person in my career and the man who put college baseball on the map," current Miami coach Jim Morris said last year. "He is like a father to me."
Fraser was born and raised in New Jersey, then attended Florida State, where he's a member of the Seminoles' Hall of Fame.
His induction there really had very little to do with his athletic achievements in Tallahassee.
"Florida State University is proud to honor a former athlete who more recently has become a distinguished opponent," read the text of his induction into that Hall of Fame in 1981. "A brilliant promoter and coach, he has advanced collegiate baseball at the University of Miami, across Florida and across the nation."
That's how well thought of Fraser was: The Seminoles put an arch rival in their Hall of Fame.
Fraser took over at Miami in 1963 with a $2,200 salary, a converted shower for an office and a cow pasture for a field. College baseball was not a revenue generating sport, even for successful programs, so Fraser got creative.
Giveaways, parachutists, whatever he could think of, it all was part of Fraser's plan to entice more people to come see his team.
"My whole thing was to entertain the people. People said it was the winning, but I was trying to entertain the people so they would come back," Fraser said around the time his coaching career ended. "I did a lot of crazy things and it worked."
Article provided by Associated Press