Former Miami baseball coach Ron Fraser dies

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“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.”

Attendance at Miami grew over a seven-year span from 33,000 a season to 90,000. And in 1981, the Hurricanes set a record with 163,261 fans _ over 3,200 per game. Attendance dipped below 100,000 only once for the remainder of Fraser’s tenure.

After eight straight winning seasons to start off his tenure at Miami, the Hurricanes finally broke through with the school’s first NCAA Tournament appearance in 1971. In 1982, the Hurricanes swept through five games in Omaha, clinching the school’s first national title with a 9-3 win over Wichita State.

Three seasons later, the Hurricanes won their second championship, beating Texas twice in three days for the 1985 crown. That team finished with a school record 64 wins.

And to think _ Fraser’s run at Miami almost didn’t get started.

With the athletic department in dire straits in the early 1970s, the school elected to cut one program. Football was lousy, basketball was worse and baseball _ though far more successful than the others _ didn’t make money.

“We were going to have to let one of them go,” Fraser said.

He fully expected baseball to be the program that got cut. So in a last-ditch effort, Fraser called in some favors. Baseball Hall of Famer Stan Musial (who died at 92 on Saturday, one day before Fraser), major league broadcaster Joe Garagiola and other notables showed up at a beach benefit banquet that impressed the school. In 1972, the university dropped basketball instead of baseball.

Fraser made the move pay off, finally leading Miami to its first College World Series appearance in 1974.

“Coach Fraser had a tremendous impact on the baseball program at the University of Miami at a pivotal time in our history,” Miami President Donna Shalala said. “His love of the sport and the program can still be felt, years after this legendary tenure at `The U.’”

Fraser is a former NCAA coach of the year and coached numerous U.S. national teams _ including the 1992 Olympic team, and went on to work with many community and charity organizations in his retirement.

Miami officials said he had three children and five grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements have not been announced.

“On the field and off, Ron Fraser showed how one man can make a difference,” James said. “The University of Miami, South Florida and college baseball are all better because of him.”

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