SHENANDOAH, Texas - - Jubilation, triumph, and exultation are a few of the words that No. 2 Mary Hardin-Baylor would use to describe this season after they defeated No. 1 Mount Union 24-16. But the tears from each member of the Fredenburg family has extra meaning after this season.
Family and football have always been the two main focuses of head coach Pete Fredenburg. 2018 has brought joy and heartache to the Fredenburg family on multiple fronts.
Fredenburg was inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame on April 7. But just two days later, Mary Hardin-Baylor self-reported two major rules infractions to the NCAA surrounding extra benefits for two football student-athletes.
“The violations are, by NCAA rule definition, major infractions,” UMHB said in a statement. “Based on its investigation, the university believes there was no intention to violate or circumvent the rules. The benefits were not provided with an intention to obtain either a recruiting advantage or competitive advantage.”
Even though the university believed there was no intention to violate or circumvent the rules, UMHB suspended Fredenburg for three months without pay including the first three games of the season.
The suspension would be easy compared to what Fredenburg and his family would face next.
Fredenburg’s daughter, Kori, has experienced more than her share of medical issues. A single mother who works nights as a NICU nurse in order to provide for her sons, Kori was placed in a dire situation. In September, the doctors told the Fredenburg family that Kori would need a kidney transplant. This would be Kori’s eight surgery in three years for multiple medical conditions. The surgery loomed throughout the football season.
During the week leading into the national semifinals against Wisconsin-Whitewater, a team that Mary Hardin-Baylor failed to defeat in five previous tries, Fredenburg missed a practice while Kori had the kidney transplant surgery.
While Fredenburg has always been known as a player’s coach, it was the players turn to show their coach some love.
“They were aware because I had to miss a practice," Fredenburg said. "They were just overwhelmingly supportive of me and my family. It was just an incredible time.”
Kori received the organ donation from her best friend, Heather Nay. The two had known each other for many years having played volleyball together in high school. Both women even attended college together at Baylor.
The kidney transplant was a success. The Fredenburg family was extremely grateful.
“She’s doing great and it’s just absolutely incredible what the medical people can do," Fredenburg said. "I’ll never get over the fact when the surgeon said as soon as they hooked her kidney up it started functioning. The prayers, the thoughts, and the sacrifice of so many has just made this an emotional time for us. We’re certainly very blessed.”
The only issue for Kori was that she had to miss the national semifinal game against UW-Whitewater. After the Crusaders defeated UW-Whitewater, the doctors told Kori that she could attend the Stagg Bowl.
“She’s probably my biggest fan and for her to be able to be at the Stagg Bowl is an added emotion for all of us,” Fredenburg said leading into the game.
Just getting to Shenandoah, Texas, was not meant to be the end of this story for the Fredenburg family. The Crusaders provided the proper finish for the Fredenburg family as they won their second national championship in three years.
“The cool thing about this year is there’s been some adversity, but we have just kept driving and working," Fredenburg said. "It’s been the goal since fall camp to get back here and have another shot at Mount Union.”
Fredenburg reflected post-game on the challenging season both personally and professionally.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever experienced a week like we did last week when Kori was having a transplant done and her mother was torn between coming to a ballgame or being with her in the hospital,” Fredenburg said. “The incredible amount of support was just tremendous and I just can’t say enough about the response and the prayers."
This year may have provided Pete Fredenburg with some of the most personal and professional challenges in his career, but the year ended with the Fredenburg family celebrating in ways not many families understand on the Woodforest Bank Stadium turf.
“To top it off with a national championship, it doesn’t get much better than that,” Fredenburg said.