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Frank Windegger 1934-2024

The longtime TCU athletic director oversaw the addition of several women’s sports and turbulent times with the football team.

Courtesy of Sherry Windegger Mitchell

Frank Windegger 1934-2024

The longtime TCU athletic director oversaw the addition of several women’s sports and turbulent times with the football team.

Frank Windegger ’57 of Fort Worth is best known as TCU’s longest serving athletic director, retiring in 1998 after 23 years. Those defining years, however, are just part of his Horned Frog story.

Windegger, who died March 8, first made his name as a TCU student-athlete. He played football but excelled at baseball — his number was the first retired at TCU in the sport. His first weeks at TCU were also pivotal personally: He met Barbara Leatherman at Howdy Week. “It was love at first sight,” said his wife of 68 years.

After two years in the U.S. Army, Windegger was back at TCU as assistant baseball coach and assistant ticket manager, beginning his rise in athletics.

From the start, Windegger’s priority was the student-athletes, said Jack Hesselbrock ’82 (MBA ’86), retired senior associate athletic director. Named head baseball coach in 1962, Windegger guided the Frogs in 1963 to a Southwest Conference championship, the youngest head coach to do so and the first of his four conference titles.

His longevity as athletic director came from “a steady, steady hand,” Hesselbrock said, despite “a lot of up and down times with the NCAA landscape, conference landscape, even our own landscape.”

Athletic programs expanded greatly during Windegger’s tenure, especially with Title IX, the 1972 law that required universities to add women’s sports or forfeit federal funding. But as sports were added, sometimes “we didn’t have the [TCU] funding to go along with it,” Hesselbrock said.

When TCU’s football program faced harsh penalties from the NCAA in the mid-1980s, “he captained the ship through that,” Hesselbrock said. “He backed his coach, he backed the football staff, and we backed the players — all had the opportunity to come back.”

His heart for people extended to his staffers. “He hired a number of people who just needed a chance, and they turned out to be tremendously loyal, long-term, good employees,” said Hesselbrock, who counts himself among the lucky.

His steady strength was no different at home, said daughters Dana Windegger Dirksen and Sherry Windegger Mitchell.

“The two most important values I learned from my dad, through example, were the importance of putting others before ourselves and to give without ever expecting anything in return,” Dirksen said

For Mitchell, “he taught me to love, pray and be a loyal person to my friends and family.”