Among the dozens of Iowa athletics-related photos in my dad's basement is the above picture of Hayden Fry's 1983 coaching staff. It might be weird for anyone, even the most hardcore of Iowa fans, to have a framed photograph of a bunch of position coaches for a team that went 9-3 and lost the Gator Bowl 31 years ago, but that wasn't just any staff. Hayden Fry's 1983 staff was arguably the greatest collection of coaching talent in the history of the game, a group that would go on to win a staggering 722 games as head coaches, including 32 bowl wins, 9 BCS bowl wins, 35 top 25 finishes (and 22 in the top 10), and 15 major conference titles. And that's not even including Fry's successes.
Here are their stories, starting from Hayden and going clockwise
There are two kinds of coaches on this staff: The guys who left to become head coaches, who have been almost universally successful, and the guys who stayed in Iowa City forever. Despite leaving for most of the 90s, Jackson certainly qualifies as one of the latter. He served as running backs coach under Hayden Fry at North Texas, came to Iowa City with Fry, and served in the same position from 1979 through 1988. He was promoted to offensive coordinator when Bill Snyder left for Kansas State in 1989. Jackson then left for an assistant position under George Siefert (another former Iowa assistant) with the San Francisco 49ers. John Mackovic hired Jackson as a running backs coach for his last season at Texas, but Jackson left when Mackovic was replaced with Mack Brown. In 1999, Jackson returned to Iowa City as Kirk Ferentz's first running backs coach, and remained in that role through the 2007 season. He spent 22 seasons as an Iowa assistant.
Like so many coaches on this staff, Patterson was an assistant under Fry at North Texas. He moved to Iowa City as defensive backs coach in 1979 and remained with the Hawkeyes through Fry's entire tenure, moving to the offensive staff in 1981 and acting as offensive coordinator from 1992 through 1998.
When Hayden retired, Patterson took over as head coach at Western Illinois. Over the next decade, he went 63-47, won two conference titles and made three playoff trips with the Leathernecks. Patterson resigned in 2009 due to a cancer diagnosis -- mirroring his longtime mentor -- finishing his head coaching career as the second-winningest coach in Western Illinois history.
Patterson has since linked up with two former Hawkeyes. He was quarterbacks coach and recruiting coordinator at Buffalo the last three years, where former Iowa linebacker William Inge had been defensive coordinator. This winter, he joined former Hawkeye Bob Diaco's staff at UConn as associate head coach and quarterbacks coach.
Dervich is the epitome of the lifelong Iowa guy: He was Fry's strength and conditioning coach and jack-of-all-trades assistant. Dervich eventually became Iowa's first Director of Football Operations -- it was under his administration that Iowa and Wisconsin started the almost-annual Toolbox Game between the teams' managers -- and remained in that position through 2007.
Where to start with Big Game Bob? He was an Iowa defensive back who stayed on as a graduate assistant in 1983 and a volunteer assistant through 1987. When Snyder left for Kansas State, Stoops joined his staff as a defensive backs coach and eventual defensive coordinator. After three successful years as Steve Spurrier's defensive coordinator at Florida, Stoops was the most highly-sought-after assistant in the country in 1998. When Hayden retired the same year, fans presumed that a prodigal son was returning home.
The theories of how the Stoops hire went haywire -- Bob Bowlsby wanted Terry Allen, Stoops wanted too much, money, the search committee took too long, etc. -- are largely irrelevant today. Regardless of how he got there, Stoops eventually took over the smoldering crater that was John Blake Era Oklahoma Sooners Football. Stoops was pretty good. He won a National Championship in his second season, the first of five consecutive seasons when his Sooners finished in the national top 6. In 14 seasons as head coach of the Sooners, Stoops has won nine Big 12 titles and ten division titles, finished in the top 10 nine times, taken four BCS bowl games, and passed Barry Switzer as the winningest coach in the history of Oklahoma football. He was the fastest coach in the modern era to reach 100 wins, coached two Heisman Trophy winners, and has built his own coaching tree with future head coaches like Mike Leach, Mark Mangino, and his brothers Mike and Mark Stoops.
McCarney is the only longtime head coach to come out of the 1983 staff with a career losing record. It's not his fault, of course.
McCarney was a defensive line assistant on Fry's staff for more than a decade, before joining Barry Alvarez's staff at Wisconsin as defensive coordinator. In 1995, he was named head coach at Iowa State and spent the next 12 seasons in Ames. He set school records for wins (56) and losses (85) and won just five conference games in his first five seasons before breaking through in a nine-win 2000 campaign. He tied for a Big 12 North championship in 2004, which remains Iowa State's only division or conference win since 1912. McCarney's teams went to five bowl games in six seasons, another high mark for the program. And we're not going to talk about his record against Iowa.
He resigned after a four-win 2006 season, and joined former Iowa assistant Jim Leavitt at South Florida as a defensive line coach for one season before catching on with Urban Meyer at Florida. In 2011, he took charge of Hayden's last pre-Iowa program, North Texas, and led the Mean Green to their first bowl appearance in more than a decade last season.
On a staff of legendary coaches, Bill Brashier is unquestionably the most important Iowa assistant ever. And he cemented that status before he'd even gotten to Iowa City. In 1979, Hayden Fry was offered the head coach positions at Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, and Iowa. He asked his staff, including Brashier, where they should go.
"I told my assistants to make up their mind where we're going," Fry said. "Coach (Bill) Brashier said we're going to Iowa. I said Iowa? I don't even know where Iowa's located.
"He said look at this film -every time Iowa made a first down, the whole crowd erupted. I got to thinkin', my gosh, what would happen if we ever scored a touchdown."
Brashier tells the story a bit differently -- he focused on how many people were at a game that the Hawkeyes lost by 40 and imagined what would happen if they could win there -- but regardless of the rationale, it was Brashier who convinced Fry to come to Iowa. The rest has been history.
Brashier reportedly turned down three head coaching position offers in his time at Iowa, remaining as defensive coordinator through the entirety of Fry's tenure. His decision had an unintended consequence: The glass ceiling created by Brashier's stability forced Iowa defensive assistants to move on, eventually creating three highly successful head coaches from those ranks.
Alvarez was hired onto the Iowa staff as defensive line coach in 1979 after three seasons as head coach at Mason City High. That alone should prove how odd the Alvarez story has been. He spent seven years on Fry's staff before leaving to become linebackers coach and eventual defensive coordinator for Lou Holtz at Notre Dame. In 1990, he accepted the head coaching position at Wisconsin. The Badgers were horrible, having won just nine games in the last five seasons, and the decision looked suspect.
And then Alvarez took off. By his second season, he had the Badgers back to five wins. By his fourth, he'd won his first of three Big Ten titles and beat UCLA in the first of three Rose Bowl victories. Over the next 16 seasons, Alvarez won 118 games, finished six times in the top 20, finished with eleven winning records, and went 8-3 in bowl games. He then graduated to athletic director and handed the reins to Bret Bielema, another former Fry player and assistant, who took the Badgers to three consecutive Rose Bowls. Alvarez returned to coach the Badgers in the 2013 Rose Bowl after Bielema resigned, suffering his only Rose Bowl loss. He remains AD in Madison.
Wyatt, a former player for Forest Evashevski and coach for Bob Commings who remained on Fry's staff as a defensive assistant, stayed at Iowa through the 1989 season. He was a former New York high school head coach, and his ties to the east coast made him one of Fry's top recruiters. Wyatt left in 1990 to join Alvarez in Madison, where he acted as Alvarez's recruiting coordinator and a defensive assistant for ten seasons. He has since moved back to Iowa City.
Snyder joined Fry's staff at North Texas in 1976 and moved with Fry to Iowa in 1979. After a decade as offensive coordinator, he left to take the head coach job at Kansas State, then widely considered the worst program in college football. K-State had become the first Division I program to lose 500 games just before his arrival, and had not won a game in nearly three years. By his third season, Snyder had Kansas State above .500; by his fifth, the Wildcats were in the top 20. Kansas State became a powerhouse through the late 1990s, winning at least a share of three consecutive Big 12 North Division titles, making eleven consecutive bowl trips, and finishing in the national top 10 in six of eight seasons. Snyder retired in 2005, and Kansas State quickly became this:
He returned in 2009, won his second Big 12 championship in 2012, and should have Kansas State back among the contenders for the conference title in 2014.
Miller spent eleven seasons at Iowa as an offensive assistant before joining Bill Snyder at Kansas State. Miller spent four seasons as Snyder's offensive coordinator and right-hand man, then took the head coaching position at Southwest Missouri State. In his four years as head coach, the Bears posted just one winning record. He departed after the 1998 season.
Miller spent one season as Bob Simmons' final offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State before rejoining Snyder's staff at Kansas State. He again became Snyder's coordinator in 2003, and stayed there until Snyder's retirement in 2005. During the Ron Prince Era, Miller worked as offensive coordinator and quaerterbacks coach for former Iowa quarterback Chuck Long at San Diego State. Long was fired just as Snyder returned, and Miller has served a third stint as offensive coordinator in Manhattan since 2009.
The number of top coaches who have coached with Kirk Ferentz is sort of amazing. When he was coaching prep school football in Massachusetts, Ferentz was on a staff with future college and NFL head coach Mike Sherman (and current Miami Dolphins coach Joe Philbin played on those high school teams). As a graduate assistant at Pitt, he coached under Jackie Sherrill and Foge Fazio. He coached with the above coaches as offensive line coach at Iowa. He left with the late 80s exodus of Iowa assistants -- Miller once said that everyone left because they thought Hayden was on the verge of retirement; Fry went on to coach another decade -- but did not join Snyder at Kansas State. Rather, Ferentz coached Maine for three years, then moved to the NFL.
The list of top coaches who interacted with Ferentz continued into the pro game. He was on Bill Belichick's staff in Cleveland for three years; for the first two seasons of his tenure, Nick Saban was the Browns' defensive coordinator. Ferentz moved with the Browns to Baltimore in 1996, joining a staff that included future NFL head coaches Eric Mangini, Marvin Lewis, and Jim Schwartz, and future Fresno State head coach Pat Hill. It was also Ferentz's first run-in with Scott Pioli, the source of so many Ferentz-to-the-NFL rumors over the last 15 years. When Hill left the next season, he was replaced by future head coach Ken Whisenhunt (they replaced Mangini with Lester Erb, which wasn't quite so awesome).
Ferentz's first staff at Iowa included Philbin, the one great success story from the Kirk Ferentz Coaching Tree. It also included Fry holdovers and future head coaches Bret Bielema (an unquestioned success) and Chuck Long (not so much). But Fry's tree didn't really blossom until 12 years after he arrived at Iowa; the group of young coaches now working under Ferentz could be the start of his own group. And, like Snyder and Stoops and (to a lesser extent) Alvarez, Ferentz could end up with his own branch off the greatest of all coaching trees.
NOTE: Happy retirement to my Dad, commenter tdtommy.