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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Old Iowa coach impacts NCAA

As a sophomore in high school, I sat 10 rows above the Iowa Hawkeyes sideline, ignorant of how lucky I was to be there for Big Ten Conference football at its best.

I had taken a family vacation to the opening game of Iowa’s 2004 season, and though they would go on to smash Kent State University 39-7, the day held importance for another reason — Hawkeye fans honored former head coach Hayden Fry at halftime.

He gallantly stood at midfield, waving to the sold-out Kinnick Stadium crowd which responded with a standing ovation.

“”He must be a big deal,”” I thought to myself.

Looking back, he was a big deal.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was watching a piece of history and future potential.

Fry coached the Hawkeyes from 1979-98, accumulating 143 of his 232 career wins during his time there. At Iowa, he went to 14 bowl games after inheriting a team that had failed to notch a winning season in the 17 years prior to his arrival.

But perhaps the greatest accomplishment of Fry’s career came after he left football.

Fry’s old Hawkeye clubs were breeding grounds for future collegiate coaches; Arizona’s Mike Stoops, Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops, Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz and head coaches from Kansas State, Wisconsin and South Florida all started their careers under Fry.

To honor a man for his own accomplishments is one thing, but Fry is above that. He shaped the collegiate football landscape as a coach, but it’s arguable whether any coach has so influenced the game after leaving the sidelines.

And there’s no doubt many of his one-time assistant coaches, graduate assistants and players have not only found NCAA head coaching jobs, but have guided their teams to success.

Bob Stoops led his team to win the 2000 NCAA National Championship. South Florida’s head coach Jim Leavitt has kept the small-school Bulls competitive in Division I football.

Helped by his brother and defensive coordinator Mark Stoops — who also played under the Hall of Fame head coach — Arizona head coach Mike Stoops has steadily rebuilt a program that was once burnt to the ground.

When Arizona visits Iowa his weekend, the storyline stretches beyond Mike and Mark Stoops visiting their old home. They’ll be playing against Ferentz, the only head coach Iowa has known in the 11 years since Fry’s retirement.

And there lies a defining moment in Fry’s illustrious career.

With Fry’s former assistant, Ferentz, going head-to-head with his former player and graduate assistant, Mike Stoops, his impact on the sport will hopefully be noticed by the rest of the college football world.

Yes, Iowa is well known for its rich soil for cornfields. But it should also be known as fertile grounds for NCAA head football coaches.

­ — Kevin Zimmerman is a journalism junior. He can be reached at

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