Pat Dye led the Auburn Tigers from 1
AUBURN – Pat Dye, the legendary football coach who led Auburn’s football program to great heights in the 1980s, died Monday. He was 80 years old.
The color was added late last month due to ongoing kidney problems. He tested positive for COVID-19 during his stay, but was asymptomatic according to his son, Pat Dye Jr.
The legendary coach led Auburn to a total record of 99-39-4 over 12 seasons 1981-92, including nine straight with winning records. The team won four SEC championships, and Dye was named SEC coach of the year three times.
“On behalf of our family, I would like to thank all the people from all over the country who have offered their support and admiration to Dad over the past few days,” Dye Jr said in a statement. “Dad would be honored and humbled to know about this overwhelming outreach. The world has lost a pretty good football coach and an amazing man. He was loved, he touched so many lives and he will be missed by many, especially our family.”
There was no morning or any day that went by, where Dye did not think about how blessed he was to be a part of Auburn. The football program, the university and the community.
That’s what he told many of his former players at a reunion of his 1989 Tigers team a little more than six months ago, the Friday before the Iron Bowl 2019. It was the 30th anniversary of the first Iron Bowl all played at Jordan. Hare Stadium, a game he was such an integral part of making happen.
“I had nothing to do with building it or doing it as it is,” Dye said. “I just bought what they already thought.”
But Dye had as much to do with building Auburn in the football program as it is today. He was the first head coach after Doug Barfield, which made him just the second since Ralph “Shug” Jordan’s 25-year run ended in 1975. The Tigers went just 29-25-1 in the five seasons before his arrival, without making a bowl game a walk. Dye built them back into power.
“People will talk about all the games that Coach Dye won, all these champions and bowl games, but his biggest contribution, his legacy, is the difference he made in his players’ lives and the people who worked for him. I’m one of them. He made a difference in my life, “said former Auburn athletics director David Housel.” He came to Auburn at a time when Auburn needed leadership and focus. He provided that leadership and focus and Auburn will forever be better because of him. “
Color is unique because he was not always an Auburn person. He was born November 6, 1939 in Blythe, Georgia. He played college football at the University of Georgia, one of Auburn’s oldest and most hated rivals. His first coaching job was as assistant manager for linebackers in Alabama, on Bear Bryant staff, where he was from 1965-73. The Crimson Tide defeated the Tigers six times in the nine seasons and won two national championships.
Dye left Tuscaloosa to become head coach at East Carolina, a job he had from 1974-79. He spent the 1980 season as head coach at Wyoming, which coincided with Barfield’s final season at Auburn. The Tigers went 5-6.
During Dye’s inaugural press conference, he was asked, “How long will it take you to beat Alabama? His response, famously, was” 60 minutes. “Auburn lost the first Iron Bowl in service, but won six of the next eight. The last of those wins was played at Jordan-Hare Stadium, December 2, 1989.
Until then, every Iron Bowl has been played in either Birmingham, Montgomery or Tuscaloosa. Most of the first, on a neutral legion field that did not feel so neutral for those wearing orange and blue. Dye talked to Bryant a few days after being hired and told him he was planning on getting the Iron Bowl to Auburn. Bryant told him it wouldn’t happen as long as he was in Tuscaloosa. It did six years after his last season.
Before that game, Dye said it would be “the most emotional day in Auburn history.” He was right, “Housel said.” That’s it. “The Tigers won, 30-20.
It’s just one of the countless memories that will forever be associated with Dye 12 seasons as head coach. Bo Jackson came to Auburn one season after Dye did so, in 1982. He went over the top against Alabama that season to give the Tigers a 23-22 victory, snapping a nine-game losing streak in the rivalry game. Jackson won the Heisman Trophy in 1985 and was the overall pick in the 1986 NFL Draft.
Auburn went 5-6 in Dye’s first season. It won no fewer than eight matches in each of the next nine seasons and won ten or more matches four times. The Tigers won the SEC championships in 1983 and 1987-89. They went 6-2-1 in bowl games. Dye was named SEC Coach of the Year in 1983, 1987 and 1988.
He didn’t lead Auburn to a national championship, but he came as close as you can in 1983, when his team bounced back from an early loss to Texas and won 10 consecutive games before finally finishing No. 3 in the AP Top 25 Poll. The New York Times ranked the Tigers No. 1.
Dye retired as head coach after the 1992 season, with a record of 153-62-5 as head coach overall. His .711 winning percentage at Auburn ranks fourth in program history among coaches with a longer time than a season, behind only Mike Donahue, Terry Bowden and John Heisman.
He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2005. The same year, the playground at Jordan-Hare Stadium was named in his honor. He remained present in the community long after his coaching, ran Crooked Oaks Hunting Preserve and Quail Hollow Gardens Japanese Maple Farm & Nursery in Notasulga and hosted “The Coach Pat Dye Show” on radio stations throughout the state each week.
And Dye will still be present, even after his Monday passing – the university approved plans to build statues of him, Jordan and Cliff Hare in February at a designated location on campus.
“Coach Dye was much more than a hall of fame coach and administrator at Auburn. He was Auburn leader and visionary, “said current Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn.” Not only did he return the football program to national prominence during his term, but was a key figure in bringing the Iron Bowl to Auburn and making an impact on the university and in society. He embodied what Auburn is about: hard work, toughness and a blue collar mentality.
“Coach Dye’s impact on Auburn is endless and will stand the test of time.”
Josh Vitale is the Auburn beat writer for Montgomery Advertiser. You can follow him on Twitter at @JoshVitale. To reach him via email, click here.