Jerry Frei
File:Jerry Frei.png
Biographical details
Born(1924-06-03)June 3, 1924
Oregon, Wisconsin
DiedFebruary 16, 2001(2001-02-16) (aged 76)
Denver, Colorado
Playing career
1942, 1946–1947Wisconsin
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
Grant HS (OR)
Lincoln HS (OR)
Willamette (line)
Oregon (assistant)
Denver Broncos (assistant)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (asst)
Chicago Bears (assistant)
Denver Broncos (assistant)
Administrative career (AD unless noted)
?Denver Broncos (scout)
Head coaching record
College Football Data Warehouse

Gerald L. "Jerry" Frei (June 3, 1924 – February 16, 2001) was an American football player and coach. He served as the head football coach at the University of Oregon from 1967 to 1971, compiling a record of 22–29–2. At Oregon, Frei coached Dan Fouts and Ahmad Rashad. He later worked in the NFL as a coach and scout, mostly with the Denver Broncos.

Early life, playing career, and military serviceEdit

Fittingly, Frei was born in the small Wisconsin town of Oregon. He spent his early years in Brooklyn, Wisconsin, then moved with his family to Stoughton, near Madison. He graduated from Stoughton High School in 1941, shortly before his 17th birthday. He was a classmate there of Marian Benson, whom he later married in 1945. Frei was inducted into the Stoughton Hall of Fame after his death.

Frei attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison. As an 18-year-old sophomore in 1942, he was a guard for the Wisconsin Badgers. The team, which starred two-time All American end Dave Schreiner and halfback Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch, finished with an 8–1–1 record, ranked third in the final AP Poll, and was named the national championship by the Helms Athletic Foundation. The Badgers beat the AP national champion, Ohio State, but lost to unheralded Iowa and tied Notre Dame.

Frei served as a pilot in the United States Army Air Forces during World War II, flying 67 reconnaissance missions in the Pacific theater for the 26th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron (26th PRS) of the Fifth Air Force's 6th Photographic Group. In the unarmed version of the P-38, he made solo flights over Japanese targets to take photographs in advance of bombing missions.[1] Following World War II, he returned to Wisconsin, where he played football for the Badgers in 1946 and 1947. He graduated in 1948.

Coaching careerEdit

Early coaching positionsEdit

Journeying to Oregon at the recommendation of a fellow pilot, Don Garbarino, Frei quickly became a popular high school football coach at Grant High School in Portland, Oregon.[2] He became head coach at Lincoln High School in 1950, then line coach at Willamette University in 1952.


Frei joined Len Casanova's football staff at the University of Oregon as freshman coach in 1955. He replaced Casanova as the Duck's 25th head coach in 1967. He had a 22–29–4 record for his five seasons as head coach. His 1970 team finished second in the Pacific-8 Conference and he twice was United Press International's national coach of the Week that season. His son, Terry Frei, suggests in his book that Frei was criticized for not maintaining "discipline" on the team when some of his players protested the Vietnam war and wore their hair long on what was then a turbulent campus. Frei himself was known to be conservative, but his philosophy was that especially because he had flown in combat at age 20 and had been forced to grow up fast, he wasn't going to try to control his young players' lives, dictate their hairstyles, or attempt to censor their political views away from the field. He steadfastly refused to call his players "kids," and some made fun of or never understood his unvarying references to them as "young men."[3] Frei resigned as head coach on January 19, 1972, two months after the 1971 had season ended following a dispute with the athletic director, who recommended that Frei fire assistant coaches.[4] His final Oregon staff included future NFL head coaches John Robinson, George Seifert, and Gunther Cunningham, future NFL defensive coordinator John Marshall, and Bruce Snyder, the later the head coach at the University of California, Berkeley and Arizona State University.

National Football LeagueEdit

Frei was an assistant coach with the Broncos (1972–1975), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1976–1977) and Chicago Bears (1978–1980), returning to the Broncos in 1981. He was a Broncos offensive line coach under John Ralston and Dan Reeves before going into scouting and administration, and he wound down his full-time career as the team's director of college scouting. After his retirement, Frei served as a consultant until his death in 2001.


Frei's eldest son, David, has hosted the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show since 1990. He once served as the public relations director for ABC Sports, the Denver Broncos, and the San Francisco 49ers. He has been the WKC's director of communications since 2003. He is an advocate of service dogs, serving in organizations and writing books on the subject.[5][6]

His second son, Terry, is a sports writer for The Denver Post and his books include: 1, "Olympic Affair: A Novel of Hitler's Siren and America's Hero"; 2, Playing Piano in a Brothel; 3, Horns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming; 4, Third Down and a War to Go: The All-American 1942 Wisconsin Badgers; 5, '77: Denver, the Broncos and a Coming of Age, and 6, The Witch's Season, a novel clearly based on Frei's Oregon teams and the men and women on the campus in those times.[7]

Frei's daughter, Judy Kaplan, is a former schoolteacher who now is a community volunteer in the Denver area. Another daughter, Susan Frei Earley, is a former principal with the Colorado Ballet who also danced with the Tampa Ballet and Tennessee Dance Theatre. She is the ballet mistress with the Tulsa Ballet.[8] A third daughter, Nancy McCormick, is a senior legal assistant with the Chicago law firm of Barlit, Beck, Herman, Palenchar and Scott. Frei's widow, Marian, died in Lakewood, Colorado, in March 2011.

Head coaching recordEdit


Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs
Oregon Webfoots (Athletic Association of Western Universities/Pacific-8 Conference) (1967–1971)
1967 Oregon 2–8 1–5 T–7th
1968 Oregon 4–6 2–4 T–5th
1969 Oregon 5–5–1 2–3 5th
1970 Oregon 6–4–1 4–3 T–2nd
1971 Oregon 5–6 2–4 6th
Oregon: 22–29–2 11–19
Total: 22–29–2


External linksEdit

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.