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Wolf Pack loses an all-time legend as Dick Trachok dies at age 94

Dick Trachok
Dick Trachok is one of three football players in Nevada history with a retired number. (Nevada athletics)

Dick Trachok, whose connection to the Nevada Wolf Pack athletic department spanned parts of nine decades, died Sunday at age 94.

Trachok's name was synonymous with Wolf Pack athletics after he starred as a standout halfback for Nevada's powerhouse 1940s team. He was the Wolf Pack football team's head coach from 1959-68 and the school's athletic director from 1969-86. He served as athletic director emeritus since his retirement and had an office at Legacy Hall. He rarely missed coming into his office every day and was a regular attendee of Nevada football and basketball games until his passing.

In addition to being the oldest living Wolf Pack football alum, Trachok was the last living link to Nevada's great players in the 1940s and 1950s. He was an encyclopedia of Wolf Pack history with unmatched knowledge of the department and the people who built it into a Division I program.

“Dick Trachok will be remembered for his time as a member of the Wolf Pack’s nationally-ranked football teams of the late 1940s, as the Wolf Pack’s head football coach and as one of the most influential athletic directors we have ever had,” UNR president Marc Johnson said. “As athletic director, Dick had a keen eye for talent, hiring several of athletics’ most notable head coaches, including Chris Ault, his former Wolf Pack quarterback and now a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. He led the effort to complete one of the campus’ most ambitious capital projects in Lawlor Events Center. More than all of this, however, I believe Dick will be most remembered for the relationships he cultivated during the three quarters of a century that he was associated with our university. He coached, mentored and was a friend to so many of us. His passing marks the end of an era. But his influence on our institution will never leave us.”

Born Richard Matthew Trachok on Dec. 27, 1925, the proud Pennsylvania native served in the United States Army Air Corps in World War II. Following the war, Trachok was recruited to play football at Nevada with his future teammate and lifelong friend, Tommy Kalminir. At Nevada, he was a standout on the football team from 1946-48, helping the Wolf Pack to a 25-6 record. He played fullback and halfback and played in the first two bowl games in school history: the 1948 Salad Bowl in Phoenix and the 1949 Harbor Bowl in San Diego. Trachok was a member of the track team and ran the quarter mile. It is said that he was never beaten in that event. His No. 21 is one of three retired numbers in Nevada football history.

"It's hard to imagine anyone having a larger impact on an athletic department, university and community than Coach Trachok," Nevada athletic director Doug Knuth said. "And importantly, he made an incredible impression on our lives. Like all great coaches and leaders, he was a teacher first and that came across in how he cared for each person. I will never forget his warm smile, encouraging and kind words, and, of course, his Passion for the Pack. Few people loved the Wolf Pack more. He came to work every day and always had a positive message for the coaches and staff. We will miss seeing Coach Trachok around the office. We will never forget him. His memory and legacy will last forever.

"We love you and we miss you Coach."

During college, Trachok became Bishop Manogue High's first basketball coach. After graduation in 1949, he taught mathematics and coached football at Reno High from 1949-58. The Desert News described Trachok as "one of Nevada's most successful high school gridiron coaches.” During his tenure, he led Reno to six state championships, ranking in the top 10 in Nevada history in state championships. Trachok became the head coach at the Nevada in 1959, serving in that capacity for 10 seasons through 1968.

Trachok was named Nevada's athletic director in 1969, taking over for his mentor and friend Glenn "Jake" Lawlor and served in that role until 1986. As athletic director, Trachok presided over some of the most significant events in Wolf Pack Athletics history, including the move to the Big Sky Conference in 1979, the first basketball team's first two NCAA Tournament appearances, the 1979 AIAW Small College National Championship by the Wolf Pack women's swimming and diving program and the construction of Lawlor Events Center and renovations of Mackay Stadium.

He was coach, athletic director, mentor and friend to Ault, recruiting him to play for Nevada before hiring the future College Football Hall of Fame coach to run the Wolf Pack program.

"From the day he recruited me, six decades ago, until the very end Dick Trachok always found time for," Ault said. "I will remain eternally grateful for the opportunities and support he gave during my entire career at the University of Nevada," Ault said. "He was a good man and friend who never lost his values. Of course, his wife, Fran, had a hand in that. In his later years, he enjoyed spending part of his day on campus visiting with athletic department and sharing stories of the good 'ole' times. However, the signature piece to his life was his wife Fran and his loving family that will always cherish and honor with memory with love and affection that will endure through eternity. Kathy and I send our love and prayers to the family."

Trachok is credited with founding the Governor's Dinner in 1969, which has become one of the major fundraisers for Wolf Pack athletes, and the Nevada athletics Hall of Fame in 1973. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1975. Trachok was named a member of the Wolf Pack Football's Team of the Century in 1998.

Trachok and his late wife were named Distinguished Nevadans in 2013, celebrating the contributions they have made to the university and state of Nevada over the course of their 67-year marriage. This honor is the most prestigious award conferred by the Board of Regents of the Nevada System of Higher Education and is given to individuals who have made significant contributions to the cultural, scientific and/or social advancement of Nevada.

Trachok's three children, Rick, Margo and Cathy, are all Nevada graduates, as are several of his grandchildren.

"My heart is heavy today," Nevada football coach Jay Norvell said. "So sadden to hear about the passing of my friend Dick Trachok. I always enjoyed hearing about history of Nevada football. He always treated me so well, I loved him for that. So happy to see him and tell him that last weekend."

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