Kirk Ferentz on Hayden Fry: 'The man who took a chance on me at the start of my coaching career'

Kirk Ferentz, left, listens to Hayden Fry as they walk to the press conference held in the football facility in Iowa Cit
Kirk Ferentz, left, listens to Hayden Fry as they walk to the press conference held in the football facility in Iowa City on Dec. 3, 1998. Ferent was named the new head coach of the Iowa football team. (The Gazette)

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 is a college football icon and an Iowa legend,” Ferentz 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’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.”

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“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.”