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Longtime Iowa football coach Hayden Fry dies at 90

Longtime Iowa coach Hayden Fry won over 200 games with the Hawkeyes, SMU and North Texas. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Iowa announced Tuesday night that longtime coach Hayden Fry died. He was 90.

Fry was a college football head coach for 37 years and coached the Hawkeyes from 1979-1998. He won three Big Ten titles at Iowa and turned a struggling program around.

“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 Fry family said in an Iowa statement. “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.’”

Iowa got to No. 1 in 1985

Iowa’s last winning season before Fry’s arrival at the end of the 1970s was an 8-1 season in 1960. The Hawkeyes went 8-4 in his third season at the school and had just five losing seasons during his tenure.

The Hawkeyes won 10 games in three different seasons under Fry and even got to No. 1 in the AP poll during a 10-2 campaign in 1985. But that season ended with a Rose Bowl loss and a No. 10 ranking in the final AP poll. 

Fry’s Hawkeyes went 9-3 in 1996 and won the Alamo Bowl. That ended up being his last bowl win as a coach. Iowa was 7-5 the following season and lost the Sun Bowl before going 3-8 in Fry’s final season in 1998.

“Iowa Athletics has lost an icon, a man that raised the bar for every Hawkeye program, and every member of our athletics department,” Iowa athletic director Gary Barta said. “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.”

Fry was 143-89-6 in his 20 seasons with the Hawkeyes and finished with a career coaching record of 233-177-10. Before coming to Iowa, Fry was the coach at SMU for 11 years and spent six years at North Texas.

Famous for distinct locker room

The Texas native famously took over at Iowa without ever visiting the state before and helped create the school’s current Tigerhawk logo and make Iowa’s uniforms similar to those of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He also had the visiting locker room at Kinnick Stadium painted pink in an attempt at gamesmanship against teams traveling to Iowa.

He also had a coaching tree that spread across college football over the past 30 seasons. Numerous coaches who served as assistants under Fry are or were head coaches at Power Five programs including current Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz. He succeeded Fry after Fry’s retirement.

“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,” Ferentz said. “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.”

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports

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