The Game Changer
Hayden Fry, who changed the image of University of Iowa football from a perennial loser to a consistent winner, died Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2019. He was 90.

Fry was hired as the Hawkeyes' head football coach in late 1978 and had the job for 20 seasons. Iowa had 17 consecutive nonwinning seasons when he arrived, a streak that grew to 19 after his first two years.

Then, to put a twist on a Fry expression, he stopped selling the sizzle and started peddling the steak. Iowa shared the Big Ten title and went to the Rose Bowl in 1981. The Hawkeyes remained a vital program through most of his tenure.

From the memorable wins to the famous "Fryisms," The Gazette examines the life and career of an Iowa icon in this special section.

Hayden Fry, who changed the image of University of Iowa football from a perennial loser to a consistent winner, died Tuesday. He was 90.

Fry was hired as the Hawkeyes’ head football coach in late 1978 and had the job for 20 seasons. Iowa had 17 consecutive nonwinning seasons when he arrived, a streak that grew to 19 after his first two years.

Then, to put a twist on a Fry expression, he stopped selling the sizzle and started peddling the steak. Iowa shared the Big Ten title and went to the Rose Bowl in 1981. The Hawkeyes remained a vital program through most of his tenure.

In all, Iowa shared three Big Ten titles and went to three Rose Bowls under Fry. He was the winningest coach in school history when he retired, with an overall record of 143-89-6, and a Big Ten mark of 96-61-5.

There have been two Iowa head football coaches since the 1979 season: Hayden Fry and Kirk Ferentz.

Fry, who turned the program into a winner in his time from 1979 to 1998, died Tuesday at the age of 90.

He was Iowa’s all-time winningest coach (143-89-6) until Ferentz, who took over in 1999, passed him last season.

Ferentz was on Fry’s Iowa staff as offensive line coach from 1981-1989.

Hayden Fry, who died Tuesday at the age of 90, was best known as the man who turned the Iowa football program into a winner after decades of losing.

But he was equally well known for his turn of a phrase. He brought his own Texas lexicon with him to Iowa when he became the Hawkeyes’ coach in late 1978.

His legend was built on winning, of course.

Without the three Big Ten championships and three Rose Bowl trips, without the consistent and colorful winning for most of his 20 years as the head football coach, the Hayden Fry story is just another footnote in University of Iowa sports history.

Instead, it was one of Iowa’s best all-time stories.

A timeline of former Iowa football coach Hayden Fry’s life and career.

1929 — John Hayden Fry born in Eastland, Texas, on Feb. 28

1940s — Played football for Odessa High School (Texas)

1947 to 1950 — Played football at Baylor University

1952 to 1955 — Served in U.S. Marine Crops. Reached rank of captain

Editor’s note: This story originally ran in The Gazette on Aug. 30, 2009. Hayden Fry died Tuesday at the age of 90.

It doesn’t need to be accompanied by words. It’s no exaggeration to call it part of Iowa’s landscape.

It’s on countless car bumpers and garages, mailboxes and barns.

It’s the Tigerhawk logo. If you aren’t familiar with it, it might be hard to believe you’ve stepped foot in the state within the last quarter-century.

“Where I come from, it’s called selling the sizzle before the steak.” — Hayden Fry

The course of Iowa football changed in December 1978. After 17 straight losing seasons, Iowa athletics director Bump Elliott brought in Hayden Fry as head coach.

Two more nonwinning seasons followed, but Fry then led the Hawkeyes to a share of the Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl appearance in 1981. He went on to post a 143-89-6 record and make 14 bowl game appearances in 20 seasons in charge.

Fry died Tuesday at the age of 90.

Here is the report that appeared in The Gazette on Sunday, Dec. 10, 1978, the day after Fry was introduced to the media as Iowa head coach.

The term “coaching tree” has been used extensively about Hayden Fry, but his was more like a coaching redwood.

When Fry, who died Tuesday at age 90, was Iowa’s coach in the 1980s, he had a lot of assistant coaches who went on to be head coaches. Two, Bill Snyder and Barry Alvarez, are in the College Football Hall of Fame with Fry. Two others, Bob Stoops and Kirk Ferentz, will get there once they’re eligible.

By phone Wednesday, Snyder said he was still “processing some things” about Fry’s death, and “revisiting our wonderful years together.”

Watch Iowa football head coach Kirk Ferentz talk about former head coach Hayden Fry on Wednesday.

Fry passed away Tuesday at the age of 90.

On Iowa Podcast: Remembering Hayden Fry

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

On a special edition of the On Iowa Podcast, journalists who covered Hayden Fry for The Gazette remember the former Iowa football coach, who died Tuesday at the age of 90.

Gazette sports editor J.R. Ogden, former sports editor Mark Dukes and former assistant sports editor Jim Ecker share their stories of a coach who transformed Iowa football from a perennial loser to a consistent winner.

Hayden Fry made a tremendous impact on countless Iowans thanks to his 20-year run as Iowa football coach, none more so than his players and coaches.

Bob Stoops: Hayden Fry brought 'swagger and attitude' to Iowa

Here is a collection of social media tributes from Fry’s Hawkeyes after the legendary coach died Tuesday at the age of 90.

IOWA CITY — Kirk Ferentz’s voice started to shake when he talked about the bigness of Hayden Fry.

Maybe “bigness” can be covered with the word “showmanship.” Fry, who served as Iowa’s head coach from 1979 to 1998, changed into overalls and a cowboy hat and conducted postgame interviews after beating Minnesota one year. Iowa certainly won and won and won under Fry, 90, who died Tuesday night after a 20-plus-year battle with cancer, so maybe the “bigness” was wins. Fry won three Big Ten titles and took the Hawkeyes to three Rose Bowls.

There were so many big things during Fry’s 20-year run as Iowa’s coach.

IOWA CITY — Transporting Hayden Fry to and from various engagements during his most recent trips here for FRYfest — the annual kickoff to the Hawkeye football season named in honor of the legendary coach — was like escorting an A-list celebrity.

“There’s no mistaking who Hayden Fry is,” said Dale Arens, a University of Iowa assistant athletics director who became part of Fry’s entourage during the visits — helping drive him to and from events, while also carving out “rocking chair time” for him.

“Hayden literally on those FRYfest weekends — I’m not exaggerating — you couldn’t walk him 5 yards without people wanting to have a moment with him,” Arens said. “And he would pose for every selfie and talk, and not just like, ‘Hi, thank you.’ It’s like, when somebody approached him, it was, ‘Where are you from?’ He was interested in them. He was so kind.”

That juxtaposition — a larger-than-life figure whose influence spread far beyond the gridiron with a down-to-earth Southerner who knelt to greet children and left strangers feeling a personal connection — captured why the Hawkeye coach became a legend.

Hayden Fry was the parent who would allow you to jump your Big Wheel over the pit full of nails and broken glass. Fry would imbue with the confidence. He would push the buttons that would motivate you and allow you to believe the Big Wheel was going to fly.

Kirk Ferentz is the parent who would tell you to dream about jumping the Big Wheel over the pit of ultimate darkness, but he would mostly tell you to focus on your homework and that Big Wheels don’t fly.

Fry brought idealism. Ferentz brought pragmatism.

Editor’s note: Former Iowa quarterback Chuck Long did a telephone interview with The Gazette after Hayden Fry’s death on Tuesday. Long was an All-American and Heisman Trophy runner-up under Fry who, after his NFL career, coached with him at Iowa. Here is Long’s story:

Everybody should write a book called “What if?”

What if Hayden Fry never came along? Where would I be? Who knows?

I got recruited by Northern Illinois and Northwestern but only because Iowa was recruiting me. If Iowa didn’t recruit me ... who knows where I’d be?

He changed my life forever.

The larger the legend, the more difficult it becomes to completely capture that person’s legacy.

Such is the case with Hayden Fry.

This will not be a reiteration of his accomplishments. So many members of the media in the days since his death have done a magnificent job of doing just that, and more.

As I scanned my list of possible angles for this piece, I landed on not only how he changed the culture of Iowa football, but specifically how he changed the thoughts and habits of the Hawkeye fan. Keep in mind, it would not have been possible had Fry not won.

Hayden Fry called me a liar.

That’s not something you want to hear while covering an Iowa football news conference for The Gazette, but oddly his false remark welcomed me into the “club.”

That’s the “club” of sportswriters and sportscasters who occasionally became Hayden’s foils, especially if he wanted to deflect attention from his Hawkeyes.

There was a long list of club members, including former Gazette sports editor Mark Dukes, but you did not become a club member without Hayden paying attention (at least a little) to your work.

Like so many others, some of my favorite childhood memories are of Saturdays at Kinnick Stadium.

Most of my childhood was in the 1970s, however, so the victories I witnessed were not many. I always looked forward to a time when Iowa would be a “winner.”

I was fortunate to have a father who played and coached in Iowa’s “glory years” in the 1950s so I knew it could happen.

Hayden Fry won 143 games in his 20 years as Iowa football coach.

At the time of his retirement following the 1998 season, that was a program record. Former Fry assistant Kirk Ferentz surpassed him in 2018.

How do you cut 143 down to 10? Some are obvious (that 1-vs.-2 game in 1985), others required debate.

Here’s what we came up with, with links to the original game storys that appeared in The Gazette.

Editor’s note: Late Gazette sports editor and columnist Gus Schrader wrote this column when Hayden Fry announced his retirement. It was first published Nov. 24, 1998.

Has it really been two decades since Hayden Fry rode into Iowa from Texas to turn a 17-year dearth of winning football seasons into another Miracle on Melrose Avenue?

Hey, the memories are welling up as one recalls some of the triumphant moments that Hayden created, along with his assistants and a long golden line of star players.

Just think, three trips to the Rose Bowl, 14 postseason bowl games, Big Ten Coach of the Year three times, All-America and all-conference players by the score.

For an old sportswriter, Hayden’s success at Iowa was almost, as Yogi Berra once said, “kind of like deja vu all over again.”

Hayden Fry made the Iowa football team a consistent winner in his 20 years head coach, retiring after 1998 season with a 143-89-6 record.

He took the Hawkeyes to 14 bowls during his tenure, compiling a 6-7-1 record.

Here’s a look back the the Fry-coached Iowa bowl games.

People aren’t at their best when they’re disappointed or exhausted, and Hayden Fry was both on the morning of Aug. 30, 1992.

His Iowa football team had lost, 24-14, to North Carolina State the night before in the Kickoff Classic at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. At the time, it was an allowed extra game for the two teams, an unofficial season-starter for college football.

The Hawkeyes, coming off a 10-1-1 season the year before, were 0-1 before September had started and facing a home game against national power Miami (Fla.) six days later.

That was an era when not everything was a charter flight for even high-profile college teams. Then-Gazette sports writer Jim Ecker and I not only were on the same connecting flight from Chicago to Cedar Rapids with Fry on that day after the game, we were in the same block of three seats with him.

Fry wasn’t thrilled with that twist of fate. Before we even got seated, he bluntly said “No interviews.” We assured him none were sought. We were tired, too.

Hayden Fry came to the University of Iowa as I was about to start my freshman year at Northern Iowa.

I already was working at The Gazette as a part-timer, but our paths, for obvious reasons, didn’t cross.

Fry retired as I was about to be named sports editor at The Gazette.

IOWA CITY — Throughout his career as assistant athletics director for trademark and marketing at the University of Iowa, Dale Arens has seen several iterations of the same shirt.

It’s simple enough — commander hat, aviator glasses and a mustache. No other features. No text.

“There was no doubt who that was,” Arens said. “It doesn’t say, ‘Hayden’ on it. It shouts ‘Hayden.’”

IOWA CITY — Born early at just 27 weeks, Hayden Duwe came into the world weighing only 2.2 pounds.

She was born in October 2017 in the new University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, just as “the wave” — where football fans in Kinnick Stadium wave up to kids looking down from the neighboring 14-floor Children’s Hospital — was catching on.

“There were five other names that we had, and we didn’t even consider the other four when we were born at the university,” said her mom, Amber Duwe, 33, of North Liberty.

New unemployment claims rose in Iowa, from 4,652 to 6,601, between Sept. 13 and Sept. 19 as the pandemic continues to take an economic toll on the state.

Continuing claims decreased, though, from 65,422 to 63,291.

Manufacturing was the largest source of unemployment claims, at 1,483, followed by construction at 1,043, self-employed and independent contractors with 970, health care and social assistance at 440, and accommodation and food services at 416.

Claims in the construction industry more than doubled in September. As of the week of Sept. 5, it was the source of 385 claims.

Manufacturing claims were decreasing earlier in the month, but claims increased by about 600 last week.

The claims resulted in $17.8 million in standard unemployment benefits, $4.3 million in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, $5.7 million in Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation and $1.1 million in State Extended Benefits.

The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation benefits expired at the end of July, but Iowans received almost $4 million in retroactive payments last week.

These numbers only show how many people are actively seeking work and therefore do not give a full picture of how many people are out of work during the pandemic.

Comments: (319) 398-8394; john.steppe@thegazette.com