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College Football Hall of Fame coach Hayden Fry dies

By Alex Butler
College Football Hall of Fame coach Hayden Fry dies
Former Iowa coach Hayden Fry led the Hawkeyes football team to a No. 1 national ranking in 1985. Photo courtesy of University of Iowa Athletics

Dec. 18 (UPI) -- College Football Hall of Fame coach Hayden Fry has died after a long battle with cancer. He was 90.

Fry's family announced his death Tuesday. The longtime Iowa coach died Tuesday in the Dallas area, while surrounded by his family.

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"We are comforted in our faith and knowing that Hayden is no longer suffering and resides now in heaven with our Lord," the Fry family said in a statement. "Hayden passed on Dec. 17, at the age of 90. 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. 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.'"

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Fry began his collegiate head coaching career in 1962 at SMU, where he coached through the 1972 season. He then coached at North Texas from 1973 through 1978. He joined the Hawkeyes in 1979. Fry owned a 143-89-6 record at Iowa. He had a 233-177-10 record overall.

He coached the Hawkeyes to a No. 1 national ranking during the 1985 season, while the team was led by Heisman Trophy runner-up Chuck Long and All-American linebacker Larry Station. The Hawkeyes had 17 consecutive non-winning seasons before Fry took over as coach, replacing Bob Commings. Fry's Hawkeyes went to 14 bowl games and won a share of three Big Ten championships.

Fry retired after the 1998 season. He was Iowa's all-time winningest coach before current coach Kirk Ferentz passed his wins total in 2018. Fry was elected to the National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Fame in 2003.

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"Hayden Fry is a college football icon and an Iowa legend," Ferentz said. "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.

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"He has 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."

Fry was born in Eastland, Texas, before his family moved to Odessa when he was 8 years old. He quarterbacked the Odessa High School football team to a state championship in 1946. He went on to be a quarterback at Baylor from 1947 through 1950. He went on to become a player-coach with the Quantico Marines before becoming head coach at Odessa High School from 1956 to 1959. He joined the Baylor staff as an assistant in 1960 before taking the same role at Arkansas. He became SMU's head coach a year later.

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Fry's coaching staff at Iowa included: Bob Stoops, Don Patterson, Dan McCarney, Barry Alvarez, Bill Snyder, Carl Jackson, Bill Brashier and Ferentz.

He is survived by four sons, a daughter, a stepson, a stepdaughter and wife Shirley.

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