Yesterday, the Auburn University family lost one of its legends, Coach Pat Dye, who died at age 80 after being hospitalized for kidney problems and was diagnosed with COVID-19. In 2011, I was honored to interview Pat Dye at his office at Auburn University, where he still did administrative work, for my book, “Hidden History of Auburn.”
I graduated from Auburn in 1987 with a degree in English, so I was at the university at the height of Dye’s coaching career and the era of Bo Jackson.
When Dye arrived at Auburn in 1981, Jordan-Hare Stadium was in need of updating. He oversaw an expansion that was completed in 1989, adding 15,000 seats and 69 sky boxes, the first of their kind in the SEC. The stadium was the largest in the state until the University of Alabama’s stadium was expanded in 2006. With the improved stadium, Auburn hosted the Iron Bowl for the first time in its history in the fall of 1989. Auburn won, 30-20.
He was born November 6, 1939, and died June 1, 2020, in Auburn. Details of his funeral have not been publicized.
When I decided to write “Hidden History of Auburn,” I wanted to tell some of the history of the town and the university that were not found in the typical books about football history. Although the book contains a few stories about football and AU football traditions, it mostly features little-known tales.
Because Pat Dye was such a huge football legend and this was not a “football book,” I did not devote a large section of the book to him. For the same reason – he was a legend – I had no intention of leaving him out. The words that come to mind to describe him that day are: “Southern gentleman.”
I included my interview with Pat Dye in the section called “Auburn Achievers.” Below is a very brief excerpt of that section:
Pat Dye, who was a two-time All-American while playing football for the University of Georgia in the late 1950s, was one of Auburn’s most successful coaches, leading the team from 1981 to 1992. Dye, who remains connected to the university, said that having the field at Jordan-Hare Stadium named for him in 2005 was “the greatest honor my name’s ever been associated with. There’s been nothing even close.”
Dye also has been inducted in the College Football Hall of Fame. Dye played pro football for the Canadian league after leaving Georgia and then was assistant coach under Paul “Bear” Bryant at the University of Alabama …
Dye said that Dr. George Petrie, who formed Auburn’s first football team in 1892 and wrote Auburn’s Creed, had more influence on the university than anyone before or since. At varying times until his retirement in 1942, Petrie was professor of history and Latin, head of the History Department and dean of the graduate school. He was the first person in Alabama to earn a doctorate degree. “He was a great guy who understood that the mental, physical and spiritual were all part of a student’s development,” Dye said.
Dye said when he considers Auburn’s success, he thinks of one phrase. “‘Auburn family’ stands out in my mind,” he said. “Bricks and mortar don’t make things happen. People make things happen. Auburn is what it is today because of the faculty and the administrators who choose to teach here and the students who choose to come here.”