Northern Kentucky University lost a legendary figure in athletics and the founding father of Norse baseball. Bill Aker, the first baseball coach in NKU’s history died Saturday.
“He’s always been a presence for NKU baseball and NKU athletics,” said Jane Meier, former athletic director. “He will be truly missed.”
In 1971, Aker, then working as a pressman for the Cincinnati Enquirer, took the task of starting a baseball program at Northern Kentucky State College.
Success came quickly for him, as the baseball team made it to the NCAA tournament in 1976 and won 49 games in 1977 – a record that still stands today. Baseball was the first sport in Norse athletics to have success regionally and nationally.
A pair of trips to the College World Series highlighted Aker’s time as a head coach at NKU.
In its eighth year, the team made its first appearance in the College World Series. NKU defeated Bellarmine 9-2 in 1979 to bring home the first regional championship.
Aker’s team went to the NAIA championship in 1985. After a woeful 1-10 start, the team won 34 of out of its final 46 games to advance to the championship.
Aker’s first win came April 1, 1972, with a 4-3 victory over Hanover College. His final win came May 1, 2000, as an 11-3 victory over Transylvania University.
Between these two victories, Aker coached 29 years, winning a total of 807 games.
Aker was named the GLVC Coach of the Year in 1992 and 2000, and Great Lakes Region Coach of the Year in 1977, 1979 and 1981. The NAIA Area IV awarded him coach of the year in 1985.
“When I think of NKU baseball, I think of Bill Aker,” Meier said. “He did whatever it took with what he had to deal with.”
The first player coached by Aker to make the Major Leagues was relief pitcher Chris Hook. Hook made his debut in 1995 for the San Francisco Giants, and played two season making 55 appearances for the Giants.
For his accomplishments, Aker was inducted into the David Lee Holt NKU Athletics Hall of Fame in 2003. The baseball stadium is named Bill Aker Baseball Complex in honor of him.
Editor’s Note: Some information in this story has been corrected. Originally, the story said Aker started a basketball program in the third paragraph and that he got his first win in 1962. The story has been updated to reflect the correct sport and date.
Story by Nick Jones