Over the month of January, UNO lost two of its greatest Mavericks, and the impact of both Bob Gates and Del Weber are still felt today in Omaha’s baseball and hockey programs.
Former UNO Chancellor Del Weber passed away on the evening of Jan. 11 of pneumonia. He was 86 years old. Former Omaha baseball coach Bob Gates passed away days later on Jan. 22 at the age of 93.
“We are deeply saddened with the recent passing of Bob Gates,” said UNO Trev Alberts in a statement released by UNO Athletics. “Coach Gates was one of the most respected high school and college coaches in the state of Nebraska, and his vast contributions have had a profound impact in shaping the rich history of UNO Athletics and the Maverick baseball program.”
Gates’ achievements included 464 victories (good enough for second-most of any head coach in the Omaha baseball program), two conference championships and two NCAA tournament appearances in Division II baseball during his Omaha career from 1976-1999. His 1981 squad posted a 31-16 record.
Before beginning as Omaha head coach, Gates served in the Navy during World War II and played basketball and baseball at the University of Nebraska Lincoln. Her also coached basketball, baseball and football at his alma mater (Omaha Holy Name High School). After a stint as multi-sport assistant coach with the Huskers from 1961-66, Gates coached baseball as the head coach at Pershing College before the university was shut down.
Coach Gates fought severe budget cuts to the program in the 1980’s; however, he re-established the program as one of the premiere in the North Central Conference before his retirement.
“Coach Gates was a great man and a great coach,” said former UNO student-athlete Ethan Anderson in the press release. “He will always occupy an important place in our history and our hearts.”
Former Chancellor Del Weber had a different – but no less impressive – impact on another Omaha sports program: hockey. Weber served as UNO Chancellor from 1977 to 1997, overseeing the first efforts to form a hockey program in Omaha.
According to an Omaha-World Herald article, Weber faced significant opposition to his efforts from University of Nebraska regents that “didn’t want UNL… to be challenged in any way by UNO.”
The Chancellor will be remembered as the driving force behind the university’s transformation from a small campus to a large metropolitan force in Omaha. He will also be remembered for his role in the formation of the hockey program: in 1995, he brought back former Athletic Director Don Leahy from a ten-year retirement to kickstart the hockey program. On May 1 of 1996, an official announcement was made in that regard. The program began in 1997.
Don Leahy passed away less than one year ago. Weber, Gates and Leahy represent a golden age of UNO athletics that laid the foundations for the move to Division I.