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Taking One for the Team
Rick Reilly
June 09, 2003
When the 65-year-old track and field coach at Fresno State was told in April that his men's teams were about to be eliminated to save money, he did not holler, "This is an outrage! I'm suing!"
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June 09, 2003

Taking One For The Team

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When the 65-year-old track and field coach at Fresno State was told in April that his men's teams were about to be eliminated to save money, he did not holler, "This is an outrage! I'm suing!"

And he did not roar, "It's Title IX's fault! I'm suing!"

And he did not bellow, "This is age discrimination! I'm suing!"

No, what Bob Fraley said was, "How 'bout if I work for free?"

When the smelling salts brought Fresno State athletic director Scott Johnson back to consciousness, he pulled out a calculator. Fraley was costing the school $95,000 a year in salary plus about $20,000 in benefits, which added up to about 40% of the men's outdoor track budget. "That would work!" Johnson said.

And so it is that in three weeks Fraley and his wife of 44 years, Elaine, will begin living on his retirement pension. It'll mean a lot less stopping for ice cream. "Heck, I could do with a lot less of it," he says, patting his belly. And it'll mean a lot more of what he and Elaine call her "cheap and disgusting" dinners—the kind she made when they were just starting out and having three kids—like kraut and weenies, and mashed potatoes covered in tuna gravy. "Actually," she says, "they're Bob's favorites."

They won't be getting rid of Bob's eight-year-old Saturn. Or Elaine's 16-year-old Chevy station wagon. And they won't be moving out of the tiny campus condo that they've lived in for 20 years.

And what was the reaction around town and among his peers to this most selfless of deeds? Praise? Hosannas? A statue on campus, perhaps?

In some circles, venom.

"A bunch of people said I was dumb," says Fraley, whose outdoor track program lives, but the men's indoor team, which he coached, plus the men's cross-country team were axed. "I was told by one pretty good coach, 'That's a very poor example to set. Now people are going to expect us all to work for nothing.' "

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