Longtime Auburn football coach Pat Dye dies at 80

Yahoo Sports

Legendary Auburn football coach Pat Dye died on Monday. He was 80 years old. 

Dye, who coached at Auburn from 1981-92, was recently hospitalized due to longstanding kidney problems. He also tested positive for COVID-19 in May.

Pat Dye Jr. told ESPN on May 21 that his father was “asymptomatic” with respect to COVID-19, but had been hospitalized due to “kidney-related issues.”

“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,” Dye Jr. said Monday 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 a great man. He was beloved, he touched so many lives and he will be missed by many, especially our family.”

Dye went 99-39-4 and won at least a share of four SEC titles as the head coach at Auburn. During that time, Coach Dye, as he was affectionately known, won SEC Coach of the Year three times, national coach of the year once and also served as Auburn’s athletic director for 10 years. The field at Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium is named “Pat Dye Field” in his honor. Dye was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2005. 

“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,” Auburn athletic director Allen Greene said. “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.”

Before arriving at Auburn, Dye was an All-American at Georgia, playing both guard and linebacker for the Bulldogs. Once his playing career ended, Dye coached linebackers at Alabama before landing head-coaching jobs at both East Carolina (1974-1979) and Wyoming (1980). That paved the way for Dye to return to the SEC, this time as the Auburn head coach.

The Tigers went 14-9 over his first two years before jumping into national title contention with a 11-1 mark in 1983. That season culminated with a victory over Michigan in the Sugar Bowl, but Auburn ended up finishing No. 3 in the polls. Dye teams would finish in the top 10 four straight years from 1986-89 with three SEC titles before he eventually stepped aside following consecutive five-win campaigns in 1991 and 1992. 

Longtime Auburn football coach Pat Dye died on Monday. He was 80 years old. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
Longtime Auburn football coach Pat Dye died on Monday. He was 80 years old. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

Overall, Dye’s Auburn teams won at least 10 games four times and were 6-2-1 in bowl games. He also helped reverse Auburn’s fortunes against in-state rival Alabama. He also coached the legendary Bo Jackson, who won the Heisman Trophy in 1985. 

Upon Dye’s arrival on The Plains, Alabama had knocked off Auburn eight straight times in the Iron Bowl. Under Dye, Auburn went 6-6 against the Tide, including a four-game series winning streak between 1986-89. Additionally, Dye was instrumental in turning the Iron Bowl into a home-and-home series instead of being held annually in Birmingham. The first time an Iron Bowl was played at Auburn was in 1989, and the Tigers promptly upset the No. 2-ranked Crimson Tide 30-20. 

Dye had a lifetime coaching record of 153-62-5 overall in his time at East Carolina, Wyoming and Auburn. 

“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,” Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said.

“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.”

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