Ted Bredehoft made three of the most important coaching hires in Wichita State history, used camel races to sell a struggling football team and resigned his job as athletic director after 10 years of tumultuous change and NCAA probation.
Bredehoft, 84, died on Saturday, according to Downing & Lahey Mortuary.
In contrast to his colorful and controversial tenure at WSU, he lived largely out of the spotlight in Wichita after his resignation. He worked in the oil industry. In 2000, he started, with wife Susan, the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Network of Kansas after the death of his 6-month-old granddaughter.
Bredehoft came to WSU in 1972 after 11 years at Arizona State, where he worked as wrestling coach and tennis coach before rising to assistant athletic director. He replaced Cecil Coleman, who took the AD job at Illinois, and inherited a fading basketball program and a football team recovering from the 1970 plane crash in Colorado that killed 31 people.
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His influence on Shocker athletics is considerable.
“There are 82,246 square miles in Kansas and I’d like to declare all of this country as Shocker Country,” Bredehoft said when hired.
He restarted the baseball program and hired Gene Stephenson in 1977. Althought the two famously battled over the slow pace of building baseball facilities, Stephenson’s hiring changed college college baseball history and gave WSU its lone NCAA team title, in 1989.
In 1978, he hired basketball coach Gene Smithson to build the MTXE era and bring Shocker greats such as Antoine Carr, Cliff Levingston and Xavier McDaniel into the program.
In 1978, Bredehoft hired football coach Willie Jeffries from South Carolina State. Jeffries became the first black head coach at a Division I-A school.
WSU’s athletic program grew from five teams to 15, with women’s athletics merging into the athletic department in 1980, during his tenure. WSU had won five straight Missouri Valley Conference All-Sports awards when he resigned in November 1982. He started the Shocker Athletic Scholarship Organization, the department’s fund-raising group for scholarships.
Shocker Mountain ski school, located on a ramp under Cessna Stadium, gave Kansans a way to learn to ski before traveling to the mountains.
Bredehoft will also be remembered for his inventive promotions to sell tickets for Shocker football.
In 1976, Bredehoft offered a money-back guarantee for season-ticket buyers. The Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders performed at the final home game in 1977, a day that also featured a laser-light concert, a scramble for $25,000 and an auctioning off of Cessna Stadium’s artificial turf.
In 1981, WSU, in a promotion with the Kansas Jaycees, marketed Shocker Bread. Five wrappers provided admission to a game.
Also in 1981, he started the the Shocker Sports Superchannel, the nation’s first college basketball cable TV subscription service. It lasted for 17 years.
Despite his efforts, WSU football never reached the success he desired. He was on his on his way out as the 1982 season ended. The Shockers went 8-3 in 1982 and defeated Kansas. It was the program’s first winning record since 1972.
After a 38-29 victory at Drake on Nov. 6, 1982, Shocker players carried Bredehoft off the field in a show of support. Bredehoft, taking heat while WSU admitted during the season that it had committed an NCAA infraction in the recruitment of a player, resigned two days later.
Issues with the NCAA utlimately drove out Bredehoft.
Both the football and men’s basketball programs received NCAA probation during his tenure. Wichita State’s reputation as an outlaw school, operating outside NCAA rules for recruiting, grew during that time. The football scandal led to his resignation and the arrival of athletic director Lew Perkins, charged with cleaning up the program and changing the school’s reputation.
Susan Bredehoft died in 2014.
Funeral services are pending.
The Bredehoft era