It has been a tremendously sad day for fans of the Iowa Hawkeyes.
As you all know by now, Hayden Fry passed away on December 17 at the age of 90 after complications with cancer.
It feels like the world should stop turning. Time should stand still. But it can’t. Yesterday was the early signing day for football recruiting, and head coach Kirk Ferentz traveled to San Diego to take place in the opening press conference with USC head coach Clay Helton ahead of next week’s Holiday Bowl matchup against the Trojans.
Nothing stops the day-to-day grind of the head coaching job for a Division I college football coach. Not even the death of a legend. And a legend he was indeed. Other people will have more, better written, things to say about Coach Fry than me. I’m not old enough to be cognizant of the glory days of Iowa football. All that I’ve known of Hayden Fry’s coaching I’ve read in articles, heard from other Iowa fans, including my dad, seeing in videos, and seeing in the ramifications he’s had on this program to this day.
It felt like Hayden was larger than life; a figure who undoubtedly changed the entire course of Iowa football and athletics history forever. And when someone has impacted a university like that, it also feels like they’ll live forever, too. I never thought this day would come, but here we are, with time moving on.
But I am just one of many voices trying to write and say something meaningful about the late coach. Kirk Ferentz owes part of his own Iowa legacy to Coach Fry, so let’s hear what he had to say on the matter before seeing what he had to say about signing day and the Holiday Bowl (some videos courtesy of Hawkeye Report below and then a normal press conference transcript breakdown to follow):
We’ve seen Kirk get more emotional as the years have gone, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen him this choked up. But it makes sense. It’s clear, and it’s touching to see the impact Hayden had on Kirk and the entire program, and it’s certainly thought-provoking when thinking in the macro about the state of the program.
The most important part here? “We will honor Coach Fry. We will find a way.” He mentioned they will do something next week for the bowl game and next season “on a broader scale.” Hayden Fry Field at Kinnick Stadium? HELLO.
Onto the the Holiday Bowl Press conference. Check out the full transcript here.
KIRK FERENTZ: ...A long time defensive coordinator Bill Brashier on our staff, a fellow Texan, ... had a good way of saying things.
I remember whatever bowl we were going to one year, he goes, All bowls are good bowls, it’s just that some are better than others.
I think he was thinking about the Holiday Bowl because we had the opportunity to come back out here twice in the ‘80s. Iowa came back two years after I left. We had such a phenomenal experience. It’s been a long drought. We are extremely excited to be back.
Rita Foley, Coach Fry’s assistant, my assistant 41 years now, she started working at age eight for the record (laughter), she made the comment this morning, This was always Hayden’s favorite bowl. He loved coming out here, loved everything about it. Maybe there’s some fate here involved ...
Certainly seems like it could be fate to me. A win confirms it, right? Right.
KIRK FERENTZ: When we look at the film, they’ve got great players, very well-coached. We know we have a huge challenge on our hands. It’s going to take our absolute best.
We’re thrilled about every part of this, know we have a big challenge
A big challenge indeed. Well-coached might depend on what sect of USC fan you’re talking to, but there’s no question that Clay Helton did manage to pull off a decent season with a lot of unforeseeable incidents.
Q. During the season I think there are three combined losses to ranked teams, came by an average about 4.7 points a game in those losses. As good as that defense has been, was that offense at the end of the year different than earlier in the year when they struggled a little bit? If so how?
KIRK FERENTZ: I think we struggled a little bit more mid-season. Had some injuries. I know USC faced the same challenge ...
I think most of our games, all of our losses have gone down to the last minute. But I quickly remind people, too, we have a lot of wins that have gone that way, too. We kind of live in a world of close football games. That’s been the nature of our program.
A world of close football games, you say? No!
Q. You mentioned the long-term tenure. I didn’t realize until tonight Coach Ferentz has the longest tenured streak in the country of head coaches. Is it 21 years?
KIRK FERENTZ: Yes ... Clay talked about our scores. If I had to live in a world with those 48-39 games, I don’t know if I’d last 10 years. Those games kill you. I remember we played Penn State in 1983, I think it was 42-38. It felt like we had been in a marathon. I hate those kind of games.
Hopefully we’re not in one this week. I don’t know. With the way these guys move the ball and score, I don’t know, we’ll see what happens.
High scoring games! The horrors! Watch Iowa win this game 52-48 or something.
Q. Talking a little bit about what Coach Helton went through this year on and off the field, you’ve seen a lot in your two decades at Iowa, you’ve had opportunities at the NFL level. How do you manage the highs and lows in football for that long? What is really the secret to navigating all of that?
KIRK FERENTZ: I think Clay mentioned he grew up in a football family ...
I didn’t grow up in a football family necessarily, but I’ve had great mentors long the way. Probably two most notably would be Coach Fry, and Joe Moore, my high school coach ...
The longer you do this, the more you find out all you can do is all you can do. It’s true of anything in we do in life, whether raising a family, coaching football, you try to do the best preparing the people you work with, give them the tools to be successful. You hope you go out and do things the way you’re supposed to do. All you can do.
Can’t dwell on consequences. Every day you waste worrying about what happened yesterday is a day you’re going to shut some opportunity out.
Maybe we’ll be seeing Kirk Ferentz on the motivational speaker circuit after he retires someday? I’m inspired!
Have the two of you crossed paths at any level? Is this the first time you have gotten together?
KIRK FERENTZ: I think I’m correct in saying the draft two years ago is probably the only time we met ...
We’re football guys. We kind of follow what’s going on.
FOOTBALL GUY ALERT! There’s no better way to end this blog post.
Actually there is: rest in peace Hayden Fry and GO HAWKS.