Hayden Fry To Be Honored With NFF Legends Award

Feb. 13, 2018

IRVING -- The National Football Foundation (NFF) Gridiron Club of Dallas Chapter announced Tuesday that College Football Hall of Fame Coach and North Texas Athletic Hall of Famer Hayden Fry will receive the chapter's 2018 Legends Award. Fry will accept the honor during the chapter's 10th Annual Awards Banquet on Sunday, March 18, at 6 p.m. CT at the Dallas/Addison Marriott Quorum by the Galleria.

The Legends Award is presented to a former athletics director or coach who has made significant contributions to the game of football, either in the manner in which it is played and watched or the manner in which it is enjoyed by spectators.

For 37 years, Hayden Fry was one of the most recognizable faces in college football, and when he retired, his 232 wins placed him 10th all-time in college history. He received college football's ultimate honor when he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2003.

In 1973, Fry became the head coach and athletics director at North Texas, where he orchestrated a massive turnaround. Prior to his arrival, the school had won just seven games in the previous three seasons. 

In his first season, Fry led the Mean Green to a share of the Missouri Valley Conference title, and he was named the conference coach of the year. Fry would go on to win 40 games in six seasons, including 19 in his final two years in Denton. One of his biggest wins at UNT came in 1975 when the team upset SEC powerhouse Tennessee on the road. Fry also played a key role in emphasizing the nickname Mean Green over the traditional Eagle mascot. In addition, three of his sons played for him at North Texas.

A native of Eastland, Texas, and a descendant of one of Sam Houston's allies at the Battle of San Jacinto, Fry's career in leadership began at Odessa High School, where he served as class president and quarterbacked the football team to the state title in 1946. He would later attend Baylor University, where he played quarterback for the Bears while earning a degree in psychology. Fry served in the Marine Corps from 1952-55, where he both played and coached football while attaining the rank of captain.

At 26 years old, Fry became the head coach at Odessa High in 1956. He spent three seasons leading the team in West Texas before stints as an assistant coach at Baylor and Arkansas.

Fry became the eighth head coach in SMU football history when he was hired in 1962, and he would earn Southwest Conference Coach of the Year honors his first season.

It was at SMU where Fry made one of the biggest impacts on college football in the South. In 1965, he recruited future College Football Hall of Famer Jerry LeVias, making him the first African-American scholarship athlete and the second African-American football player in the Southwest Conference. The connection between Fry and LeVias would later culminate with the legendary duo inducted together as part of the 2003 College Football Hall of Fame Class.

Following his tenure at North Texas, Fry gained national acclaim for sparking a resurgence at Iowa, where his teams were 143-89-6 over 20 seasons (1979-98). In 1981, he coached the Hawkeyes to their first winning season in 19 years with a Big-Ten co-championship and a berth in the Rose Bowl, the school's first bowl appearance in 23 years. That season, he was named the Sporting News College Football Coach of the Year and claimed his first of three Big Ten Coach of the Year awards.

Fry won two other Big Ten titles in 1985 and 1990 to send the Hawkeyes to Pasadena. At Iowa, his teams ended the season ranked 10 times and made 14 bowl appearances. Before Fry's arrival, the Hawkeyes had been to just two bowl games in 90 years. His 143 wins at Iowa are tied for the most in school history with current Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz, who served as the offensive line coach under Fry for nine seasons in the 1980s.

A number of players or assistants coaches under Fry have gone on to become successful head coaches, including Barry Alvarez (Wisconsin), Bret Bielema (Wisconsin, Arkansas), Kirk Ferentz (Iowa), Bob Stoops (Oklahoma), Mark Stoops (Kentucky) and Bill Snyder (Kansas State).

He has been inducted into multiple halls of fame, including the North Texas Athletics, University of Iowa Athletics, Rose Bowl, Sun Bowl, Peach Bowl, Holiday Bowl and United States Marine Corps. Fry's numerous awards include the 2015 SMU Lettermen's Association Legends Award, the 2012 American Heart Association Paul "Bear" Bryant Award and the 2005 AFCA Amos Alonzo Stagg Award.

After retiring from coaching in 1998, Fry was successfully treated for prostate cancer and moved to Nevada. He recently moved back to North Texas.

The March 18 event will also recognize the best high school and collegiate student-athletes in North Texas and distribute a number of scholarships.


 

 

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