AUBURN — Former Auburn coach Pat Dye, who took over a downtrodden football program in 1981 and turned it into a Southeastern Conference power, died Monday. He was 80.
Lee County Coroner Bill Harris said Dye died at a hospice care facility in Auburn from complications of kidney and liver failure.
Dye was hospitalized late last month because of ongoing kidney issues. He tested positive for COVID-19 during his stay, but was asymptomatic according to his son, Pat Dye Jr.
When Dye came to Auburn, he inherited a program that was deeply divided after only three winning seasons in the previous six years. In 12 years, he posted a 99-39-4 record, Auburn won or shared four conference titles and the Tigers were ranked in The Associated Press' Top 10 five times.
“On behalf of our family, I want to thank all of the people from around the country who have offered their support and admiration for Dad these past several days," Dye Jr. said in a statement. "Dad would be honored and humbled to know about this overwhelming outreach. The world has lost a pretty good football coach and a great man. He was beloved, he touched so many lives and he will be missed by many, especially our family."
Dye's overall coaching record was 153-62-5 in 17 years at Auburn, Wyoming and East Carolina.
His coaching career ended in November 1992 when he was forced to resign after a pay-for-play scandal rocked the program, which was placed on two years' probation.
Dye served as athletic director as well as coach for most of his career with Auburn. He remained associated with the university after his resignation and was a frequent commentator on football talk-radio shows.
Harris said Dye died at the Compassus Bethany House in Auburn at 11:48 a.m. today.
Funeral arrangements had not been announced as of late Monday afternoon.
Harris said Dye went into the hospital with "kidney issues and renal failure." Once in the hospital, Dye was tested for COVID-19.
"They tested him for it, but he was asymptomatic," Harris said. "So he never showed any symptoms of COVID-19."
Dye coached at Auburn from 1981-92. He played at Georgia in 1958-60 and was an assistant coach under Paul "Bear" Bryant at Alabama in 1965-73. He was head coach at East Carolina in 1974-79 and at Wyoming in 1980 before leaving for Auburn.
There wasn't any morning, or any day that went by, where Dye didn't think about how blessed he was to be a part of Auburn. The football program, the university and the community.
That's what he told many of his former players at a reunion of his 1989 Tigers team a little more than six months ago, the Friday before the 2019 Iron Bowl. It was the 30-year anniversary of the first Iron Bowl played at Jordan-Hare Stadium, a game he was such an integral part of making happen.
"I didn't have anything to do with building it or making it like it is," Dye said. "I just bought into what they already believed."
When Dye interviewed for the job, he was asked by a member of the search committee, "How long will it take you to beat Alabama? His reply, famously, was "60 minutes." Auburn lost the first Iron Bowl of his tenure, but won six of the next eight. The last of those wins was played at Jordan-Hare Stadium, on Dec. 2, 1989.
Up until then, every Iron Bowl has been played in either Birmingham, Montgomery or Tuscaloosa. Mostly the former, at a neutral Legion Field that didn't feel all that neutral to those wearing orange and blue. Dye spoke to Bryant a few days after being hired, and told him that he planned on getting the Iron Bowl to Auburn. Bryant told him it wouldn't happen as long as he was in Tuscaloosa. It did six years after his final season.
Dye said before that game that it would be "the most emotional day in Auburn history." "He was right," former Auburn athletic director David Housel said. "It was." The Tigers won 30-20.
He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2005. That same year, the playing field at Jordan-Hare Stadium was named in his honor. He stayed ever-present in the community long after his coaching, running Crooked Oaks Hunting Preserve and Quail Hollow Gardens Japanese Maple Farm & Nursery in Notasulga and hosting "The Coach Pat Dye Show" on radio stations throughout the state every week.
And Dye will still be present, even after his passing Monday — the university approved plans to build statues of him, Jordan and Cliff Hare in February at a to-be-determined location on campus.
“Coach Dye was much more than a hall of fame coach and administrator at Auburn. He was an Auburn leader and visionary," current Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. "He not only returned the football program back to national prominence during his tenure, but was a key figure in bringing the Iron Bowl to Auburn and made an impact on the university and in the community. He embodied what Auburn is about: hard work, toughness and a blue collar mentality.
"Coach Dye’s impact on Auburn is endless and will stand the test of time."