Football is our state lost one of our icons this week with the passing of Coach Pat Dye.
I was a young coach, in my third year, when Coach Dye was hired at Auburn in December of 1980. He had a tremendous impression on me and my beliefs about football.
No one ever wanted to go to Auburn more than Pat Dye. He was the head coach at Wyoming at the time and he openly campaigned for the Auburn job. The Tigers were waiting on a decision from alumnus Vince Dooley, who had Herschel Walker at the time and was winning championships at Georgia. Wyoming told Coach Dye to take his name out of it or resign.
From day one, he was “an Auburn man.”
One of the first things Coach Dye did at Auburn was pull out the Auburn Creed. If you haven’t seen it in a while, here it is:
The Auburn Creed
I believe that this is a practical world and that I can count only on what I earn. Therefore, I believe in work, hard work.
I believe in education, which gives me the knowledge to work wisely and trains my mind and my hands to work skillfully.
I believe in honesty and truthfulness, without which I cannot win the respect and confidence of my fellow men.
I believe in a sound mind, in a sound body and a spirit that is not afraid, and in clean sports that develop these qualities.
I believe in obedience to law because it protects the rights of all.
I believe in the human touch, which cultivates sympathy with my fellow men and mutual helpfulness and brings happiness for all.
I believe in my Country, because it is a land of freedom and because it is my own home, and that I can best serve that country by “doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with my God.”
And because Auburn men and women believe in these things, I believe in Auburn and love it.
-George Petrie (1943)
When Coach Dye started talking about the Creed and about being “an Auburn man”, all the Tigers got teary eyed. He gave everyone hope and changed the way Auburn football looked at itself.
Coach Dye was passionate about the game, and that trait was absorbed by his players and coaches. He got them emotionally involved in Auburn football. Want a recipe for rebuilding a football program? Get your players to practice and play with passion and emotion. I would go to the coaches clinic in the spring back in the early 80’s and you could just feel the spirit, like something great could happen here today.
Coach Dye loved to put on a performance for the coaches. They would line up and do 3 on 3, best on best and the best way I could describe this was “bloody.” Coaches were yelling and players were cheering and it was an all out war. The offensive coaches would be getting in the face of the defensive coaches. It was unbelievable. You won’t see that at a clinic today.
Coach Dye brought the wishbone to Auburn. They were good at running the option, but what Coach Dye really wanted to do was just run over you. The definition of physical in the dictionary doesn’t do it justice.
In those days you didn’t go to the Auburn Coaching Clinic to get some offensive and defensive knowledge as much as you went to get your attitude right.
I watched him build Auburn to respectability, then greatness through his great leadership. There was no doubt who was in charge. He became the absolute leader of not only Auburn football, but the university as well.
I was learning how to coach and I listened to his every word. Here are my favorite Pat Dye quotes.
When he was asked in his interview how long it would take to beat Alabama, Coach Dye said, “60 minutes.” The hair on the back of my neck still stands up when I read that, even today.
Before the 1981 Iron Bowl when Bear Bryant was about to win his 315th game to set the record, Coach Dye told his mentor at midfield before the game, “We aren’t afraid of you anymore!”
You never had to wonder what Coach Dye was thinking in those early years. At his first practice at Auburn, he lined everyone up on the sideline and told them, “There ain’t a damn one of you I’ve got to have!” Pat Dye knew how to get your attention.
I coached at T.R. Miller for 27 years. I can’t tell you how many times I put my team on a line and told them the same thing. Pure Pat Dye!
Throughout it all, he preached about his love for Auburn.
Pat Dye did what only the truly great coaches can do. They leave a mark that stands the test of time. The Auburn that so many love today would not be the same without Pat Dye. I can never go on the practice field or in the football building without feeling his presence.
They buried him at his Notasulga farm, under a tree he grew from a trimming of one of the Toomers Corner oaks. “I want to fertilize this tree and for my spirit to hover around this tree,” he said.
Auburn man to the end.