Fry to Receive Amos Alonzo Stagg Award

Sept. 22, 2004

Former SMU, North Texas and Iowa Head Coach Hayden Fry has been selected as the 2005 recipient of the American Football Coaches Association’s Amos Alonzo Stagg Award. The award, which honors those “whose services have been outstanding in the advancement of the best interests of football,” will be presented to Fry at the ADT Awards Luncheon on January 11 during the 2005 AFCA Convention in Louisville, Ky.

“As a young guy growing up Amos Alonzo Stagg was my hero. You saw the old film clips of him, Pop Wa r n e r, Knute Rockne and you wanted to emulate them,” Fry said. “All that flashes through your mind when you find out you’ll receive an award in his name. To me it’s the highest honor a coach can receive. It’s a tribute to outstanding coaches and players I worked with. They were the ones who had to execute the plan.”

Fry is the first coach with ties to SMU, North Texas or Iowa to receive the AFCA’s most prestigious award. Fry retired from coaching in 1998 after 39 seasons in college football, including 37 seasons as a head coach. He finished his career with a record of 232-178-10.

At the time of his retirement, he ranked fourth among Division I active head coaches in career wins and 10th all-time in Division I victories. He is one of 16 Division I coaches to total over 200 career victories. Fry had coached more games (420) than any active Division I coach and he was fourth all-time in games coached when retired. Fry also ranks fourth all-time in Big Ten wins. He is one of only six coaches in Big 10 history to coach 20 seasons in the league, joining award namesake Amos Alonzo Stagg (Chicago), Illinois’ Bob Zuppke, Ohio State’s Woody Hayes, Minnesota’s Henry Williams and Michigan’s Bo Schembechler in that select group.

A 2003 inductee into the College Football Hall of Fame, Fry earned conference Coach of the Year honors in three different leagues — Big Ten (three times), Southwest (four) and the Missouri Valley (one). Fry made his biggest impact on college football off the field when he broke the color barrier in the Southwest Conference by recruiting receiver Jerry Levias to SMU in 1965. Levias joined Fry in the 2003 College Football Hall of Fame induction class.

Fry gained his greatest national notoriety for his work in building the Iowa football program into one of the best in the Big 10. When he arrived at Iowa in 1979, the Hawkeyes had suffered through 18 consecutive non-winning seasons. Over the next 20 years, he guided the Hawkeyes to 14 first division finishes, three Big Ten titles and Rose Bowl appearances, and was voted Big Ten Coach of the Year three times (1981, 1990, 1991). Fry took Iowa to 14 bowl games in his last 18 seasons at the school.

The accomplishments of Fry and his Iowa teams didn’t go unnoticed. Along with being named Big Ten Coach of the Year three times, he was named AFCA Regional Coach of the Year in 1981 and 1990. Fry served as a member of the AFCA’s Board of Trustees from 1984 to 1993, serving as the Association’s president in his final year on the Board.

During his 20 years at Iowa, Fry earned a reputation as a teacher of future head coaches. Seven former Fry assistants or players are currently heading Division I-A programs: Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz, Wisconsin’s Barry Alvarez, Iowa State’s Dan McCarney, Kansas State’s Bill Snyder, Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops, Arizona’s Mike Stoops and South Florida’s Jim Leavitt. Other former Fry assistants include Western Illinois’ Don Patterson, Appalachian State’s Jerry Moore and longtime NFL coach Bum Phillips.

At SMU Fry coached 11 years (1962-72), winning the Southwest Conference championship in 1966. He was athletic director his last nine years with the Mustangs. Fry was the head coach and AD for six years (1973-78) at North Texas, taking an ailing program and making it a winner (33-11) his final four years. His record at North Texas was 40-23-3.

A native of Odessa, Texas, Fry was an all-state quarterback there and led his team to the 1946 Texas high school championship. He played quarterback at Baylor (1947-50) and earned a psychology degree in 1951. Fry was a player-coach with the Quantico Marines (reaching the rank of captain). He was head coach in his hometown of Odessa from 1956-59, and an assistant at Baylor (1960) and Arkansas (1961) before moving to SMU as head coach. Fry and his wife, Shirley, now live in Mesquite, Nevada.

The Award
The Amos Alonzo Stagg Award is given to the “individual, group or institution whose services have been outstanding in the advancement of the best interests of football.” Its purpose is “to perpetuate the example and influence of Amos Alonzo Stagg.” The award is named in honor of a man who was instrumental in founding the AFCA in the 1920s. He is considered one of the great innovators and motivating forces in the early development of the game of football. The plaque given to each recipient is a replica of the one given to Stagg at the 1939 AFCA Convention in tribute to his 50 years of service to football.

Amos Alonzo Stagg
Amos Alonzo Stagg began his coaching career at the School of Christian Workers, now Springfield (Mass.) College, after graduating from Yale University in 1888. Stagg also served as head coach at Chicago (1892-1932) and College of the Pacific (1933-1946). His 41 seasons at Chicago is one of the longest head coaching tenures in the history of the college game.

Among the innovations credited to Stagg are the tackling dummy, the huddle, the reverse play, man in motion, knit pants, numbering plays and players, and the awarding of letters. A long-time AFCA member, Stagg was the Association’s 1943 Coach of the Year. According to NCAA records, Stagg’s 57-year record as a college head coach is 314-199-35. He was 84 years old when he ended his coaching career at Pacific in 1946. He died in 1965 at the age of 103.

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