Gino Fracas, a two-time Grey Cup champion, spent eight years with the Canadian Football League’s Edmonton Eskimos as a defensive linebacker. He enjoyed great success following his playing career as a football coach and administrator, including spells as head coach of the University of Alberta Golden Bears and University of Windsor Lancers.
Fracas was born in Windsor, on April 28, 1930.
While he played first base for the Windsor Sterlings in the Detroit Federation League and, later in 1951, semi-professional baseball for the Frood Tigers in Northern Ontario, Gracas was always very much a football player. In 1947, he received All-City acclaim as a member of the Assumption High School backfield, and he overcame early-season injuries in 1948 to merit a place in Toronto’s High News All-Ontario football squad. With Assumption, he was a member of consecutive WSSA and WOSSA championship teams in 1947 and ’48.
After a single championship-winning year of Junior ORFU play with Assumption College, Fracas moved on to join the University of Western Ontario Mustangs. Fracas played halfback on offence and linebacker on defence for Western between 1952 and ’54, winning OQAA titles in ’52 and ’53. During his spell with the Mustangs, Fracas was named to the Intercollegiate All-Star Team and twice led the league in scoring. He was named the team’s Most Valuable Player in 1954.
Fracas played each of his eight CFL seasons with the Edmonton Eskimos. Fracas’ Eskimos reached three Grey Cup games, defeating Montreal in both 1955 and 1956 and losing to Ottawa in 1960. Fracas played linebacker for Edmonton, serving as the team’s co-captain and defensive signal caller for his final two seasons in 1961 and ’62.
Following his playing career, Fracas immediately went to work as Head Coach of the University of Alberta Golden Bears, where he won three league titles in four seasons between 1963 and ’66. Under Fracas’ leadership, the Golden Bears defeated Queens 25-7 in the Golden Bowl, ushering in the National College Bowl era. Fracas’ team made the College Bowl in 1965, losing 14-7 to the University of Toronto.
Fracas returned in Windsor in 1968 to take the Head Coach job at the University of Windsor. Between then and 1986, Fracas delivered a CCIFC Western Division Championship (1969) and an OUAA Western Division Championship (1975). Fracas was twice named West Coach of the Year. In 1979, during his time with the Lancers, Fracas was appointed Head Coach of the CIAU All-Stars at the 1979 Can-Am Bowl in Florida. He also served as Vice-President of the Canadian Football Coaches Association in 1969-70.
Fracas has several times been honoured for his work in football. Canadian Interuniversity Sport (previously the CIAU) awards an annual trophy in Fracas’ honour to the top volunteer assistant coach of the year in Canada. He was inducted into the University of Western Ontario’s “W” Club Athletic Hall of Fame in 1984, and he received an Award of Merit from Football Canada and the Canadian Football League in 1987. He is a member of the University of Windsor Alumni Sports Hall of Fame, and the OUAA Football Legends Hall of Fame.
Away from football, he served as Drawmaster at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, the 1978 Commonwealth and World Games, and for the Canadian Wrestling Championships between 1967 and ’78.
Gino Fracas passed away on October 29, 2009.