Hayden Fry remembrances: Former Hawkeyes and more pay tribute to late Iowa coaching legend

Dargan Southard
Hawk Central

As news circled Tuesday night regarding Hayden Fry's death, members of the Hawkeye community quickly expressed their condolences.

The tributes spread wide, from former players and coaches to broadcasting legends and more. Below are a few.

 Former players

Broadcasters and national media

Coaching community

Iowa figures

Released statements

Fry family 

"With our family at his side, Hayden Fry, beloved husband, father, and grandfather, passed away following a lengthy battle with cancer. We are comforted in our faith and knowing that Hayden is no longer suffering and resides now in heaven with our Lord.  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'.

"Our family would like to pass along our heartfelt thanks to the caregivers who made Hayden’s comfort their priority.

"We cannot thank everyone enough for their love and support. Your thoughts and prayers are truly appreciated.Memorial Services are pending and will be announced at a later date."   

Gary Barta, Iowa athletics director

“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.”

More on the life of Hayden Fry

Kirk Ferentz, Iowa head coach

“Hayden Fry is a college football icon and an Iowa legend. 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.” 

"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.”

Jerry Levias, SMU player (1965-68)

“Coach Fry caught a lot of hell for doing what he did. After he left SMU, he went to North Texas, and he couldn’t get a break in Texas – sometimes coaching and having to go to good bowl games. All of a sudden, Iowa calls. From my understanding, before Coach Fry got there Iowa had not had a .500 season since 1948 or so. This guy comes in and he turns the program around. When one door closes, the Good Lord has plans. It was like in the Good Lords plans for him to come to Iowa.”

Dan McCarney, Iowa letterman (1972-74) and former assistant coach

“He loves energy. He loves passion. He loves guys that can communicate. He had gotten some good recommendations, I don’t know who they were from, from at least a couple people in Iowa City. One of the many things I learned from Hayden Fry: If a young man doesn’t have all the things experience wise that you’re looking for, but he has those other intangibles -- work ethic, loyalty, coachable, can communicate, can build relationships, a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of passion and energy for life, could be a good recruiter and a guy that might be a person on the rise -- then maybe I’ll embrace him, give him a chance and opportunity, and that’s what Hayden Fry did with me.”

Chuck Long, Iowa quarterback (1981-85)

“I have to give him all the credit for getting my personal career launched among others. I speak for many of the Hawkeye football past players. He had a special way of making you feel good all the time even in the tough games and in the tough moments. For me it was after an interception. He had a way of getting you back up and confident. That feeling… not every coach has that ability and I’ve been around a bunch of them. Not every coach has that ability to make you feel confident and be positive even in the negative situations.”

Merton Hanks, Iowa defensive back (1987-90)

“Hayden was always on the cutting edge and looking for the best people, regardless of race, creed, or color. What he did at Iowa, really rebuilding that program to what it was to, quite frankly, national power. To get it to the point where you were able to attract young men from states away, like myself, who may not have known about the University of Iowa and everything Iowa has to offer, speaks very well of not only him, but the University itself and being a partner with him to make the University of Iowa brand that much bigger and better.”

Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack

“Coach Fry led a return of Hawkeye football to winning seasons and regular bowl appearances. But, for me his greatest legacy is as a great teacher of young men especially the many coaches who have continued to emulate him as great coaches and teachers.”

Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preps for the Des Moines Register, HawkCentral.com and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at msouthard@gannett.com or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.