The day Hayden Fry was introduced as Iowa football coach

The cover of The Gazette sports section on Sunday, Dec. 10, 1978.
The cover of The Gazette sports section on Sunday, Dec. 10, 1978.

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.

Fry talks about offense and commitment

By Mike Chapman, Gazette sports editor

IOWA CITY — “We will be colorful, tough and have exciting football.”

With those words, new Iowa football coach Hayden Fry undoubtedly endeared himself to thousands of Hawkeye football fans across the state. Not only have the Hawkeyes lost with monotonous regularity of late, but they have been, say many fans, one of the least entertaining of teams.

But there’s a new look and a new hope on the scene. Both were introduced at a press conference Saturday morning in the person of Fry. The tall Texan flew into Iowa City Friday night for a final round of talks with Iowa officials, and accepted the post offered him by athletic director Bump Elliott. Fry will be on a five-year contract at $45,000 per year.

Two points were underscored at the meeting in the Letterman’s Lounge in the Fieldhouse: first, that Fry intends to employ a wide-open style of offense, and secondly, that the often-talked about commitment to success is uppermost on many minds.

“We are a multiple-offensive and defensive team,” said Fry, who had a 40-23-3 record at North Texas State, including 10-1 and 9-2 the last two years. He came to the school in 1973, taking over a team that had gone 1-9 the year before.

Fry was at Southern Methodist University from 1962 to 1972 and had an overall mark of 49-66-1. His top years came in 1966 (8-3, with a Cotton Bowl loss to Georgia) and 1968 (8-3, with a win over Oklahoma in the Bluebonnet Bowl). He was athletic director, as well as coach, at both schools.

“I’ve always been a passing coach,” he said. “We throw the football to open up the defense so we can do what we want to do – run the football.

“We may run the Statue of Liberty play out of the end zone; that’s my kind of football,” he said. “We are exciting, but we do this in order to win.”

Fry added that his philosophy is very pro-oriented and that his teams are similar in style to the Dallas Cowboys. He said that he has exchanged notes with Darryl Rogers, the innovative coach at Michigan State: “Darryl has turned it around with a wide-open attack, and I hope this is indicative of what we can do here.”

Fry mentioned several reasons why he decided to take the Iowa job even though “lots of coaches” might think I’m crazy to come here.” He listed the image of the Big Ten, the quality of opponents, the prestige of coaching in the Big Ten and the fact that if “you win it all you go to the granddaddy of them all (the Rose Bowl).”

He also said that he was contacted by Iowa and that he did not actively seek the job, even though he and Elliott are longtime associates. “I am a very proud person in that I have never applied for a job in my life,” said the native of Odessa, Texas, who played quarterback at Baylor. “I’ve always felt that if a school is interested in me, then they’ll contact me.”

Apparently other schools besides Iowa have been interested in the 49-year-old coach. Though he declined to give names, saying it was unfair to the schools involved, it was stated by Iowa officials that at least two Big Eight Schools were very interested in discussing their jobs with Fry.

He wasted little time in talking about Iowa’s commitment to a program, which was expressed by Iowa President Willard Boyd at the firing of Bob Commings Nov. 27.

“I’ve done my homework to find out if Iowa is going to be committed to do whatever is necessary within the rules and regulations to be comparable with the winners in the Big Ten. I have been assured that this will take place.

“I have been extremely impressed with the people wanting to have a winning team here,” He added. Fry was sporting a black and gold (Iowa’s school colors) tie given to him by Elliott’s secretary.

At another point, Fry said that he wanted Iowa people “to analyze Ohio State and Michigan to see what they are doing to win and to see if we are committed to the same things.”