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Class of 2000
Inducted as member of the Pioneer Category
Fran Ebert, NFCA Hall of Famer and softball coach at Western Michigan from 1976 to 1985, passed away November 7, 2008, at the age of 78.
Ebert founded the Western Michigan program and won 69.9 percent of her games with a career record of 270-116-1. She guided her team to two trips to the 1980 and 1981 AIAW World Series and the 1982 NCAA Women’s College World Series. The Broncos finished fourth in 1980, ninth in 1981 and fifth in 1982. Ebert also led the Broncos to the 1984 Mid-American Conference championship.
“Fran was a special person for many reasons, but for me personally, she made an impact because she was willing to go out of her way for a young coach just starting out,” said Margo Jonker, Central Michigan head coach, who also became an NFCA Hall of Famer in 2003. “If I needed anything, she was there, and there aren’t many coaches who would be so willing to give ideas to another conference competitor.
"She had a great love for the game and loved to compete, and she did it in the right way," Jonker said. "One year, she released her best player because she was willing to do what was best for the future of the program, rather than just for the short term."
Ebert also was the Western Michigan head women’s basketball coach and a pioneer in the fight for Title IX equity. Jack Moss, retired Kalamazoo Gazette sports editor, had this to say about Ebert in a news story after her death:
“Fran never gave up her fight on behalf of women’s athletics, and it was pioneers like her who made it possible for so many young women to enjoy the challenges and fruits of organized competition,” Moss said. “Although she concentrated most of her energies on being a coach and mentor to those who were fortunate enough to come under her guidance, she was an outstanding athlete herself and competed successfully in a number of sports until a few years ago. She was a winner in every aspect of the way she conducted her life.”
Ebert coached two All-Americans in second baseman Louie Berndt (former coach at Florida State, Marshall, Ohio State and Nicholls State) and pitcher Bonni Kinne, in addition to 23 AIAW All-State and First Team All-MAC players. Berndt said Ebert inspired her to get involved in coaching. “She was a terrific leader and great role model,” Berndt said. “She was a softspoken leader who would tell you what you needed to do to get better. She would push you to work hard in a very positive way.”
In recognition of Ebert’s contributions, the Western Michigan softball field was renamed in her honor, Fran Ebert Field, in 1985. Besides Ebert’s induction into the NFCA Hall of Fame (2000), she was a member of Western Michigan Athletics Hall of Fame (1986) and the Mid-American Conference Hall of Fame (1992).