Hayden Fry, who turned a woeful football program into a three-time Rose Bowl participant, is leaving Iowa after 20 seasons.
Fry was the winningest coach in Iowa history, but his teams had trouble staying with the Big Ten powers in the 1990s after winning three conference championships from 1981 to 1990. This year's team finished 3-8, the worst in his stay at Iowa.
"It's kind of hard to do," the 69-year-old coach said Monday. "All the people that gave me an opportunity to spend 20 years as a member of the Hawkeye family, I could never repay them."
Fry, who inherited a program that had gone 17 years without a winning season when he came to Iowa City in 1979, took the Hawkeyes to 14 bowl games and built a 143-89-6 record to become one of the most popular figures in the state.
He said he had considered quitting two years ago but stayed out of concern for his assistants and the effect his departure would have had on recruiting. A bowl game at the end of the 1997 season also prevented him from quitting for similar reasons.
"I'd have rather gone out with a real good season," said Fry, his voice faltering at times as he wiped tears with a handkerchief.
really felt like we could have a good year," he said. "I've always been an optimist, but I never dreamed that we would experience all the problems we had ... . But I'm very proud of this team this year, even in defeat."
Hayden Fry led Iowa to three Rose Bowl's. (AP)
After going 5-6 and 4-7 in his first two seasons, Fry in 1981 took the Hawkeyes to their first appearance in the Rose Bowl since the 1958 season. They lost to Washigton 28-0.
Iowa also made Rose Bowl trips under Fry after the 1985 and 1990 seasons, both losses. Iowa was ranked No. 1 nationally for six weeks in 1985, the only time during his tenure his team was top-ranked.
Fry, who played quarterback at Baylor, began his coaching career as an assistant at his alma mater in 1960. Two years later, he became head coach at SMU, where his teams made three bowl trips in 11 years.
He then spent six years as head coach at North Texas State, compiling a 40-23-3 record before taking the Iowa job in December 1978. The Hawkeyes had gone winless in 1973 and were just 2-9 the season before Fry became coach.
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