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Harty: Happy birthday Hayden

[ 3 ] February 28, 2011 |

Hayden Fry, the man who turned around the fortunes of the Iowa football program, turned 82 on Monday.

Hawkeye fans will forever be grateful to Fry because it’s bad enough when the Iowa men’s basketball program plummets into a dark age, as has been the case recently.

But when the Iowa football team breaks down, the UI athletic machine is at risk of breaking down.

Fry did more than rescue a fan base from despair when he breathed life back into the Iowa football program in the late 1970s and early 1980s; he built a financial foundation that still fuels the UI athletic department to this day.

He made Iowa relevant again in the sport that matters the most.

And he often made it fun with his sense of humor and his unique way of expressing himself.

Fry retired after the 1998 season, but his influence is still being felt with his former Iowa assistant Kirk Ferentz now running the show.

Ferentz is among a number of former Fry assistants now running big-time college programs. From Bob Stoops at Oklahoma to Bret Bielema at Wisconsin to Bill Snyder at Kansas State, Fry’s coaching tree speaks for itself.

Ferentz faced his own rebuilding job when he came to Iowa in 1999, but nothing like what Fry faced in 1979 when he took over an Iowa program that hadn’t had a winning season since 1961.

Fry did what many feared couldn’t be done anymore at Iowa, which is have sustained success in two-platoon football.

He rebuilt it and they came. And Iowa fans have been coming ever since.

Fry was born and raised in Texas and has spent his retirement years living in Mesquite, Nev., with his wife, Shirley.

But a part of him never left Iowa City.

Fry was good to the University of Iowa and to the state of Iowa, and they were good to him in return. You don’t stay together for 20 years if it’s not working.

Retirement also has been good to Fry, but not without some scary moments, with him twice having defeated cancer.

This is just a reminder that Feb. 28th is a special day for Iowa fans because of what happened on this day in 1929 and because of what’s happened over the past three decades.

Fry gave Iowa fans a gift that keeps on giving.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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