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Without Kirk Ferentz, Hayden Fry’s Legacy Is History

Everything established in 1979 carries on today in Iowa City

NCAA Football: Illinois at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

In trying to rack my brain about a personal story I have about Hayden Fry, I come up blank. I certainly went to my fair share of Fry-coached Iowa games but I hardly remember any specific thing. The memories are much more broad. Perhaps the clearest one I have is sipping homemade hot chocolate in the end zone of the second of three straight losses against Northwestern in the mid-90s.

Snow was falling.

We left early.

I was born in 1990 so I’m not lucky enough to have been around during Fry’s heyday and had to live vicariously through my Dad’s telling of his Iowa memories. They were certainly enjoyable (my favorite is my Dad listening to an Iowa/Illinois game during his Professional Engineer Exam) but there was, and is, no doubt a “you had to be there” quality to Hayden Fry, the teams he coached, and the stories he generated.

There are too many links to share in his remembrance and I’d be lying if I didn’t enjoy the heck out of them while holding back tears. But, I wasn’t there.

Yet, without Kirk Ferentz as head coach these past 21 seasons, I can’t help but think that these memories of Hayden Fry wouldn’t be as enjoyable in their retelling, and reliving, because he has been the ultimate caretaker of the Iowa Hawkeyes.

He has been willing to let Fry’s legacy live on in a way that feels truly unique. And truly Iowan.

I found Mike Hlas’s column especially poignant because without the winning, all the quirks - the Tigerhawk, the Steeler uniforms, the pink locker room - are annoyances quickly dismissed. But Fry established that culture, and winning, in 1979 and it has carried on for 40 years. Not only in Iowa City, but Madison, Manhattan, and countless other cities and towns where his former coaches and players find themselves now.

And without Ferentz, I can’t help but think that what Fry established would feel like history.

Kirk has kept the same Tiger Hawk, ANF decal, and uniforms, of course. But he also operates the program to the high standard Fry did. His remarks yesterday with the “news media” clarified that sentiment:

Ferentz’s dedication and gratitude to Fry’s standard enables Iowa Football to be the high-level operation it is today. With college athletes, it is about more than the wins and losses. It’s about the lives impacted.

That much is clear with the stories told of Fry. We continue to see it with Kirk Ferentz.

Because of that, Hayden Fry’s legacy will continue to be Iowa’s present. And future.