Thursday, January 22, 2015

Ray Nagel

Ray Nagel, who was the University of Hawaii athletic director during an era of great growth for the Rainbows and Wahine, died last Thursday in San Antonio of natural causes at age 87, according to close family friend Chris Dey of Honolulu.

Dey said Nagel had suffered from deteriorating health since 2013.

With Nagel at the helm, many of the Manoa programs either were or became regular winners. And, despite only joining the WAC in 1980, in many cases UH teams were regular residents of the upper tier of the conference standings, or headed there.

"He presided over a special time when UH was in the national conversation in baseball with Les (Murakami) and volleyball under Dave (Shoji) and the rest of us emerging programs," said Dick Tomey, whom Nagel hired to be the Rainbows football coach in 1977.

When Nagel became the UH athletic director in 1976, the football team was coming off back-to-back 6-5 seasons against hodgepodge schedules and the basketball team was under NCAA investigation.
When he left in 1983, UH had attained membership in the Western Athletic Conference.

Football was 23-10 the previous three seasons while often selling out Aloha Stadium and establishing itself as a regular WAC contender.

Basketball fashioned three winning seasons in a row after bottoming out at 1-26 in 1978 due largely to NCAA sanctions.

Baseball had reached the finals of the College World Series in 1980 and achieved national prominence.

The women's volleyball team had just won its third national championship, and was on its way to a fourth.

Nagel left the quarry a better place than it was when he got there.

"He was forward thinking," said Jim Donovan, who played football at UH when Nagel was AD and later held the job himself. "He really helped lead UH football into what many considered a great era. Most of my interactions with Ray came when I was on staff and he was no longer the AD. He was extremely professional and loved the university. He'd do anything he could do to help."

The hiring of Tomey — an assistant at Nagel's alma mater, UCLA — was perhaps his best move. Although Tomey's teams never won the WAC, the Rainbows built a large fan base in the late '70s and early '80s, and when Tomey left for Arizona in 1986 he did so as the program's winningest coach.

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