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Former UH athletic director Ray Nagel dies

  • GEORGE. F. LEE / 2009
    Former UH athletics director Ray Nagel died Thursday in San Antonio.
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Ray Nagel, who was athletic director at the University of Hawaii for seven extremely formative years for the program, died last Thursday in San Antonio.

Nagel, who was 87, suffered from deteriorating health since 2013 and died of natural causes, said Chris Dey, a close friend who worked for him when Nagel was executive director of the Hula Bowl, following his stint as UH athletic director from 1976 to 1983.

Nagel was instrumental in elevating UH from independent status into the Western Athletic Conference.

One of his hires was football coach Dick Tomey. The Rainbow Warriors drew large crowds to Aloha Stadium, often contended for the WAC title and went 9-2 in 1981 under Tomey’s guidance.

UH also won two of its four women’s volleyball national championships under coach Dave Shoji while Nagel was athletic director at Manoa.

The baseball team rose to prominence under Les Murakami during this period as well, with UH advancing to the finals of the College World Series in 1980.

Nagel also helped UH basketball recover from NCAA sanctions stemming from an investigation prior to his tenure.

“He had a vision of what a high-functioning athletic department looked like and he tried to replicate that here,” Tomey said. “More than anything he was a good man with a big heart.”

After a year working for the Los Angeles Rams as executive vice president in 1983, Nagel returned to Hawaii as vice president of public relations for Bank of Hawaii from 1984 to 1989.

He was executive director of the Hula Bowl from 1990 until retirement in 1995.

Prior to Hawaii, Nagel played football at UCLA and, in 1953, the Chicago Cardinals. His coaching career included stops at Oklahoma, UCLA, Utah and Iowa. He was head coach of the Utes (1958-65) and Hawkeyes (66-70).

He was athletic director at Washington State from 1971 to 1976.

The family has no formal services planned at this time, Dey said.

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