Fry, who turned around Iowa football, dies at 90

Field Level Media

December 18, 2019 at 4:11 am.

Legendary Iowa Hawkeyes football coach Hayden Fry, who led the program to national prominence, died Tuesday, the school announced. He was 90.

“Hayden Fry is a college football icon and an Iowa legend,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, who took over for Fry after the 1998 season, 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 has been a great mentor and a true friend. I am forever grateful to him.”

Fry became the Hawkeyes’ head coach in 1979, taking over a program that had 17 consecutive non-winning seasons. Three seasons later, Iowa was playing in the Rose Bowl as Big Ten champion for the first time since the 1958 season.

He coached three teams to the Rose Bowl (also in the 1985 and 1990 seasons) and directed Iowa to the postseason in 14 of his 20 years.

“With our family at his side, Hayden Fry, beloved husband, father, and grandfather, passed away following a lengthy battle with cancer,” the Fry family said in a statement.

“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. His legend will live forever with the people he touched and inspired, and the programs he led to greater heights.”

Fry was 143-89-6 at Iowa, including a 96-61-5 mark in the Big Ten. Fry, who coached previously at SMU and North Texas, was 233-177-10 overall as a head coach.

His legacy lives on, as 18 of his former players or assistants became college football head coaches, many of whom — including Kansas State legend Bill Snyder, ex-Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez and former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops — passed down Fry’s lessons to their players.

“If he doesn’t come to Iowa,” Stoops told the Athletic on Tuesday night, “all our lives are changed.”

Fry, from Eastland, Texas, played quarterback for Baylor from 1947-50.

“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,” the family said. “Hayden often shared, ‘I’ll Always Be a Hawkeye.'”