One of the most legendary coaching names not only at Iowa but in college football, Hayden Fry, has lost his battle with cancer.
Tuesday night, the Fry’s family confirmed that the former head coach had passed away earlier today at the age of 90. The family, which was by Fry’s side at the end, said in a statement that “[w]e are comforted in our faith and knowing that Hayden is no longer suffering and resides now in heaven with our Lord.”
“We are proud to know that our father’s life had a positive influence on so many people, the players, the coaches, and the fans who played for, worked with, and supported his long and successful coaching career,” the family’s statement continued. “His legend will live forever with the people he touched and inspired, and the programs he led to greater heights.
“Though Hayden was born in Texas and moved there more recently to be closer to our family, his love for the University of Iowa, his players and coaches, the people of Iowa, and the state of Iowa, is well known. Hayden often shared, ‘I’ll Always Be a Hawkeye.'”
Fry, who played his college football at Baylor, was the head coach at SMU (1962-72) and North Texas State (1973-78) before taking over at Iowa in 1979. In his 20 seasons as head coach, he guided the Hawkeyes to a 143-89-6. Included in that were three Big Ten championships and 14 bowl games; before his arrival they had been to two bowl games in 90 years. In 2003, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
All told, at least 13 of his assistants or former players have gone on to become FBS head coaches. Included in that group are the likes of the Stoops brothers (Bob, Mark, Mike), Bill Snyder, Barry Alvarez, Bret Bielema and Kirk Ferentz.
“Hayden Fry is a college football icon and an Iowa legend,” Ferentz, the current Iowa head coach who passed Fry last year as the winningest coach in the program’s history, said in a statement. “His Hall of Fame career is well known, but personally, he will always be the man who took a chance on me at the start of my coaching career. I was proud to coach with him and honored to succeed him when he retired. He’s been a great mentor and a true friend. I am forever grateful to him.
“Mary and I send our heartfelt condolences to his wife Shirley, their children and the entire Fry family. We hope that Hayden’s legacy of integrity and high character will provide his family comfort during this difficult time.”
Below are additional quotes from Ferentz as well as UI’s athletic director.
ATHLETIC DIRECTOR GARY BARTA
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Shirley and the entire Fry family as we mourn the loss of Hayden Fry; a great leader, an outstanding coach, and a man as genuine and loyal as they come.
“Iowa Athletics has lost an icon, a man that raised the bar for every Hawkeye program, and every member of our athletics department. Hayden was respected by everyone who knew him. His passing creates a void for all those who played for, coached with, and supported his successful tenure as our head football coach.
“Iowa football reached new heights under Hayden Fry, and has continued that success under Kirk Ferentz, one of the many outstanding coaches who served as a member of his staff. Hayden’s legacy not only lives on through Iowa football, but also through the coaches and players who had the privilege to be associated with his teams.
“Hayden represented all that is good in college athletics, and did it “his way”. Iowa athletics, and college football, has lost a pioneer. He was a dedicated family man and he will be missed.”
“There are two men who played large roles in my coaching career: One is my mentor, Joe Moore. The other is Hayden Fry.
“Back in 1981, I sent three job applications out: one went to Appalachian State – I never heard back from them; I sent one to Hawaii, had a phone interview, but they needed someone who knew the west coast; the third went to Hayden Fry at Iowa. Coach Fry hired me based on Coach Moore’s recommendation (and in spite of my lack of experience and local knowledge) and showed me how to build and maintain a winning program.
“His vision included hiring coaches who would be forward thinking and challenge each other. If you look across college football, you will see a part of his legacy in the coaches who he hired and mentored – coaches like Barry Alvarez, Bill Snyder, Dan McCarney, Bob, Mike and Mark Stoops and many more.
“Even before the Hawkeyes started winning on the field, Coach Fry was beloved by the fans and trusted by his players. He had a charisma and leadership style that created a championship and winning program that continues today. In 20 seasons at Iowa, Coach Fry showed us all that you can succeed at the highest level by playing by the rules.”