INDIANAPOLIS - Frank Bare, the first executive director of what is now USA Gymnastics, died of pneumonia Friday. He was 80.
Bare, who won an NCAA title at Illinois and was later a gymnastics coach and judge, was asked to lead the newly formed U.S. Gymnastics Federation in 1963. Gymnastics was part of the Amateur Athletic Union at the time, but the federation soon became the sport's governing body in the United States and was recognized by the International Gymnastics Federation in 1970.
In addition to organizing the first USGF national championships, Bare was determined to increase the level of competition by bringing top international talent to the United States. He began the American Cup in 1976, and it has become one of the sport's most prestigious international events.
Olympic champions Nadia Comaneci, Mary Lou Retton, Nastia Liukin and Paul Hamm are among the American Cup winners. The field for this year's event, set for March 5 in Jacksonville, Fla., includes women's world champion Aliya Mustafina, silver medalist Philipp Boy, and Jonathan Horton, the world bronze medalist and two-time U.S. champion.
In 1979, Bare brought the world championships to the United States for the first time.
"Frank had been at the helm of the USGF for many years, and this was a very proud moment for him," said USA Gymnastics chairman Peter Vidmar, a former member of a medal-winning U.S. team. "He was a pioneer in our sport who helped lay the foundation for the success we enjoy today."
Bare served on the FIG's executive committee from 1972-76, and was a vice president from 1976 to 1980. He is in both the USA Gymnastics and International Gymnastics halls of fame.
Bare is survived by his wife, Linda; son, Frank Jr., and daughters Cydney and Becky. Funeral arrangements were pending.