Reaction pours in as Pat Dye, legendary Auburn coach, dies at 80
AUBURN, Ala. (WSFA) - Former longtime Auburn head football coach Pat Dye died Monday morning.
Lee County Coroner Bill Harris confirmed Dye died at 11:48 a.m. at Auburn Bethany House of natural causes from complications of renal and hepatic failure.
According to ESPN, Dye recently tested positive for COVID-19 but had been asymptomatic, according to his son, Pat Dye Jr., an NFL agent. He was 80.
Coach Dye led the Auburn Tigers on the field from 1981 through the 1992 football season. He simultaneously served as the university’s athletics director except for the final year.
Among his many accomplishments was getting the team’s home game against rival Alabama moved from Birmingham to Auburn every other year. He led the Tigers to their first victory over the Tide in Jordan Hare when the Iron Bowl began playing there in 1989.
Dye’s time in football didn’t start with Auburn. It was actually honed with two of the university’s biggest rivals. First, he played with the Georgia Bulldogs and was a two-time All-American football player there. Then, Dye spent nearly a decade coaching under University of Alabama head football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.
He got his first head coaching gig with East Carolina, but made his mark when he moved to east Alabama. Auburn hired Dye and watched as his teams racked up a decade winning on the gridiron, including four SEC Championships in ’83 and a three-peat from ’87-'89.
Among the players who fielded the ball under Dye’s guidance were Auburn legends Bo Jackson, who won a Heisman in 1985, as well as Tracy Rocker, the 1988 Outland Trophy and the Lombardi Award winner.
According to the university, Dye coached 21 All-Americans, 71 All-SEC players and 48 Academic All-SEC players during his career there.
When his career was complete, Dye was the Tigers’ third-winningest coach with a record 99-39-4. His overall career record came to 153-62-5 over 19 years years.
Dye walked away from the 1980s with three of its SEC Coach of the Year honors for the ’83, ’87, and ’88 seasons. And though the Tigers play in Jordan-Hare Stadium, anyone who walked onto the grass is standing on Pay Dye Field, named in his honor in 2005, the same year he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
Though Dye retired from coaching, he never really left Auburn University. You can watch an Auburn Alumi Association video detailing Dye’s life below.
Dye remained a special advisor, hosted a weekly radio broadcast called the “Coach Pat Dye Show” and enjoyed time growing maple trees on his farm in Notasulga not far from campus.
Dye is survived by his four children, Pat Jr., Missy, Brett and Wanda, and nine grandchildren and his partner of 18 years, Nancy McDonald.
The Crooked Oaks Legacy Foundation (non-profit 501(3)(c)) has been established to honor Coach Dye, his legacy, and to continue his work and love of people, nature and the gardens he created at Crooked Oaks for everyone to enjoy. The foundation will also support the needs of qualifying students at Auburn University and Auburn University at Montgomery to further their education.
A memorial to honor Coach Dye will be held at a later date. Details will be announced once they have been confirmed.
REACTION POURS IN
GOV. KAY IVEY
Gov. Kay Ivey called Dye a friend. She released this statement Monday afternoon:
“I am saddened to hear of the passing of Coach Pat Dye -- a great man, coach and member of the Auburn family. Not only was he a phenomenal football coach, but an even better person. For years, I have known Pat personally and have always valued his friendship and colorful commentary. He had great takes on both football and life. Coach Dye truly embodied the Auburn spirit. He will be missed not only by the Auburn family, but the entire state of Alabama. War Eagle, Coach. Your life and legacy lives on.”
Pat Dye, Jr
“On behalf of our family, I want to thank all of the people from around the country who have offered their support and admiration for Dad these past several days. Dad would be honored and humbled to know about this overwhelming outreach. The world has lost a pretty good football coach and a great man. He was beloved, he touched so many lives and he will be missed by many, especially our family.
Auburn Director of Athletics Allen Greene
“For four decades, Coach Dye showed all of us what it looks like to be an Auburn person. His coaching exploits are well known, securing his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame. His skills as an administrator were equally formidable, resulting most notably in bringing the Iron Bowl to Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Just like his football teams, Pat Dye the athletic director was tenacious, never backing down from a fight when he believed Auburn’s good name and best interests demanded it. Thanks to his tenacity, I’ll always treasure my first home Iron Bowl, celebrating victory on the field that bears his name.
It’s been a blessing to get to know Coach Dye in his retirement years in his role as a passionate supporter of all of Auburn Athletics. Ever the coach, I’ve witnessed him on countless occasions pouring into our student-athletes. In that sense, he never stopped being Coach Dye. On behalf of the Auburn Family, we extend our deepest condolences to the family of Patrick Fain Dye, whose love and loyalty for Auburn rendered a contribution we can never fully measure or repay.”
Gus Malzahn, Auburn Head Football Coach
“Coach Dye was much more than a hall of fame coach and administrator at Auburn. He was an Auburn leader and visionary. He not only returned the football program back to national prominence during his tenure, but was a key figure in bringing the Iron Bowl to Auburn and made an impact on the university and in the community. 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. He had a great and deep love for Auburn and he displayed that affinity daily. I’m very appreciative of his support and friendship through the years. It’s a sad day. Coach Dye was a treasure and will be missed. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, his former players and coaches and the entire Auburn family.”
Nick Saban, University of Alabama Head Football Coach
“I’ve known and respected Pat Dye for many years, and he always represented college football with tremendous class and integrity. He was an outstanding teacher and coach who affected our game in many significant ways. We are saddened to hear of his passing and our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends, co-workers and all of the players he had such a positive impact on throughout his distinguished career.”
David Housel, Auburn Athletic Director/Sports Information Director Emeritus
“People will talk about all of the games coach dye won, all of those champions and bowl games, but his greatest contribution, his legacy, is the difference he made in the lives of his players and the people who worked for him. I am one of them. He made a difference in my life.
He came to Auburn at a time when Auburn needed leadership and focus. He provided that leadership and focus and Auburn will be forever better because of him.”
Hal Baird, Auburn Baseball Coach, 1985-2000
“Coach Dye was a mentor and a friend for 46 years. I was with him when he coached his first football game at East Carolina and his last game at Auburn. He was a giant of a man and touched hundreds if not thousands of people. Everyone that he touched would say the same thing, that his life was built on a core of values that he taught to his players, coaches and staff. It’s a huge loss. He left an indelible impression on college football, on Auburn and really the entire country.”
Jay Jacobs, Former Auburn Athletic Director/Administrator, Auburn Football Letterman
“Coach Dye changed the course of Auburn Athletics and Auburn University when he walked on campus. He personified the Auburn Creed.
He impacted countless lives and continues to impact lives today because of who he was and what he wanted for Auburn. The entire Auburn family continues to benefit from him.
This has nothing to do with winning and losing games. It has to do with building character and persistence in young men. That’s what he did. He took regular boys, and if you went through his program, you became better for it. That’s his legacy. We had a chance to win games and championships, but his legacy is how he’s revered by players because of the way he profoundly impacted our lives positively forever.
Because of his relentless pursuit of excellence, he made us all better. He molded everyone into champions. He gave us the courage to have a spirit that is not afraid. He gave us poise and confidence to be who we are today - dads, husbands, brothers, community leaders, whatever it may be. He forged in us an attitude of excellence and toughness. He taught us that when you fall, to get up and go harder.”
Quentin Riggins, Former Auburn All-SEC and Team Captain Linebacker
“Coach Dye was special to me. I was not the stereotypical 6-4, 220-pound linebacker. I didn’t fit the specifications to be chosen to play that position. But somehow he saw something in me that could help Auburn and his football team. I’ll never forget him taking the chance on me in 1986 when he could have recruited anyone in the state at that position.
A large part of it was because my senior year in high school, I left a football game at halftime. It was the SW Louisiana game during Bo Jackson’s senior year. My dad told Coach Dye we couldn’t stay for the entire game because I had to work at 5 p.m. back home at McDonald’s. Little did I know that’s what struck his interest in me, that on a Saturday you can come to a football game, meet Bo Jackson and have an excuse to miss work, but leave at halftime to go to work. He’s told that story numerous times. Coach Dye wanted players like Bo, Frank Thomas, Reggie Slack and Lawyer Tillman, but he also saw past 4.3, 6-4, 250 and saw one of the ingredients that made a winning player and team. That’s what he went for.
I got a chance to talk to Coach about two weeks ago, to hear his voice and tell him I loved him. Hearing him talk was special to me. His toughness, his opening press conference when he said how long it was going to take to beat Alabama, Tiger Walk, and winning the fourth quarter...those are just a few of the marks he left on Auburn. Nobody can take that away from him. He left such an incredible, indelible mark. Players and fans of today are benefiting from his contributions to Auburn.”
Vince Dooley, Former Georgia Head Coach and Director of Athletics
“It’s sad to learn of Coach Dye’s passing. Our condolences to his family, his close associates, and friends. We competed hard as coaches but remained good friends and after football shared our love of plants, especially Japanese Maples. Pat was a solid, fundamental football coach who related well with his players. And he certainly endeared himself to the Auburn people by moving the annual Auburn-Alabama game from Birmingham to home-and-home. He will be missed by us all.”
Frank Tarkenton, Former Georgia teammate and fellow Hall of Famer
“I never played with a greater football player than Pat Dye. He was the ultimate teammate, and I loved the guy. He had so many assets as a player: quick, creative, as great of a competitor as I ever played with. He was instinctive as all great players are. He just simply would not be denied. He loved the physical contact, he liked to mix it up. This is a tough day for me. I’ve lost a lot of teammates in recent years, but this one really hurts. I’ve lost one of the best friends I have ever had.”
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