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Former UA athletic director Strack, 90, dies; Ushered Arizona into Pac-10

January 26, 2014 10:30 am  • 

Dave Strack, the UA athletic director who ushered Arizona into the Pac-10 Conference and hired the first black basketball coach at a major university, has died. He was 90.

Strack's passing was announced Saturday by the University of Michigan, where Strack played basketball and served as head coach before moving into administration.

UA athletic director Greg Byrne said today that he was "saddened to hear of Dave Strack’s passing.”

“He was a forward-thinking administrator, who did a lot for the University of Arizona and its athletics department," Byrne said. "We send our condolences to Dave’s family and friends.”

As Arizona's athletic director from 1972-83, Strack ushered the Wildcats into the Pac-10 Conference from the Western Athletic Conference, moved into McKale Center, build Kindall/Sancet Stadium and expanded Arizona Stadium. Strack hired football coaches Jim Young and Larry Smith, promoted future Hall of Famers Dave Murray (track and field) and Rick LaRose (golf) and brought in two administrators, Kathleen "Rocky" LaRose and John Perrin, who would remain at the UA for decades.

But it was his hiring of Fred Snowden, the first African-American head coach at a major university, that made headlines.

"People wanted me to hire Jerry Tarkanian when we moved into McKale Center," Strack told the Star's Greg Hansen last year. "But I hired Fred Snowden. It wasn't about breaking the color barrier, it was because I believed Fred could rebuild our basketball program faster than Tark could. And he did, too. Ha, ha, ha, ha. …

"He got (Eric) Money and Coniel (Norman), and it was built, almost overnight."

When Snowden left, Strack hired Ben Lindsey away from Grand Canyon. Lindsey lasted just one year before the UA turned to Iowa coach Lute Olson to revive the basketball program. Strack was gone by then, too.

Strack spent his retirement in Tucson. Services are pending.