Dye speaks at Troy State:

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 3, 2002

Former AU coach talks about the ‘Bear’, coaching, at TSU clinic


Sports Editor

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Pat Dye doesn’t look too far removed from the Auburn sideline.

But despite his still close ties to the university that made him famous, Dye wasn’t wearing orange and blue when he spoke at Troy State’s annual Spring Coaching Clinic on Friday night. He wore a green windbreaker, khaki pants and loafers and looked like what he’s become; an old gridiron warrior who’s become comfortable in retirement.

12 years have passed since Dye left Auburn and, although a graduate and football player of the University of Georgia, it may have been the only job he ever wanted or loved. Dye left Auburn in scandal, but other collegiate coaches have survived such controversy. Jackie Sherrill proved that when he resurfaced at Mississippi State after involving his former school, Texas A&M, in a battle with the NCAA that ended in probation.

Dye could have remade himself somewhere else.

Because as he spoke at the Tine Davis Auditorium this weekend, you could tell the man still knew how to coach.

"You have the ability to make men great," Dye told the over 30 high school coaches in attendance. "And make them reach beyond their capabilities. That’s coaching."

The hair’s a little thinner and he’s starting to show some signs of his age, but the voice is still there. The voice of a good old country boy who likes his hunting and his fishing and his Saturday college football. The voice one former Alabama assistant heard in the next room on a Sunday morning some years ago and it caused him to think Paul Bryant had risen from the grave. It was Dye talking to Phil Snow on Auburn’s postgame show.

Dye learned his trade around legends. He talked about those legends on Friday night.

He talked about Bryant at Alabama and Neyland at Tennessee and Johnny Vaught at Ole Miss.

"Some of you here are too young to remember them, but some of you do," he said. "They won national championships and conference championships. What we have here at Troy State is an acorn off of that big oak tree that they started."

He learned the most from Bryant, he said, when he took the job as one of the Bear’s assistant coaches in 1965.

"When he hired me I told him ‘Coach, I don’t know if I can do the job for you. He said ‘Well, we don’t have

a linebackers’ coach right now, why don’t we just let you watch them,’" Dye recalled. " Well I watched them and we won a national title that year."

Bryant, said Dye, was a master at getting his teams ready to play.

"He used to say that all things being equal, coaching will make a difference," said Dye. "That’s what he believed. And you hardly ever saw him get upset by a team he was supposed to beat."

He motivated his coaches as well.

"It was one year against Vanderbilt and Coach Bryant came into the meeting on Monday. He said ‘Well, we’ve got better players and better depth, so if we lose this week coaching’s going to lose it,’" Dye said. "Don’t you know we got out and did some coaching that week."

Dye took what he learned from Bryant to East Carolina in 1974, to Wyoming in 1980, and finally to Auburn in 1981. He split a pair of games with his former boss before Bryant died in January of 1983.

When Dye came to Auburn he turned his team into an SEC champion with defense and the wishbone.

"I wish I could have ran the wishbone the whole time I was at Auburn," he said. "In the wishbone all 11 players on the field have to know how to play football. If they didn’t know how to block, first, then they were on the bench. But the defenses in the Southeastern Conference were just too good."

He switched to a multiple, I-formation offense in 1984. A few years after that Jeff Burger and Reggie Slack turned Auburn into a passing team. It was an emphasis on the pass which allowed a redshirt freshman named Stan White to bring the Tigers back in the fourth quarter against Tennessee in 1990, tying the Vols 23-23.

This was also the year that Steve Spurrier combined ‘fun’ with ‘gun’ and taught his SEC colleagues the meaning of the term, ‘passing game’.

But somewhere along the way Auburn lost its rushing attack. Terry Bowden took over following Dye’s resignation and loaded up the shotgun with Dameyune Craig. He spread the field and gave Craig two options, ‘run or throw’.

Dye knows the forward pass has evolved into an offensive coordinator’s quick-strike weapon of choice. But some things he sees during the college football season just frustrates the coach in him.

"You’ve got to throw the ball down the field," he said. "And I’m not talking about these quick outs or screens either. If it’s third and one, why are you going to throw the ball 15 yards to the sidelines to make a first down when you could just hand it off and get right there? That doesn’t make since."

Dye’s teams won SEC titles in ’83, ’87, ’88 and ’89. He surrounded himself with people who wanted to win. Troy State head coach Larry Blakeney coached under Dye. Trojans’ defensive coordinator Wayne Bolt played for Dye at East Carolina and was an assistant under his former head coach at Auburn.

He concluded his coaching career on the Plains with a 99-39-4 overall record. He coached against the best. Tom Osborne at Nebraska. Vince Dooley at Georgia. Bobby Bowden and the Seminoles.

He was 4-3 against Florida State.

"Florida State would have never whipped Auburn, but they hired Mickey Andrews (FSU defensive coordinator)," said Dye. "Mickey Andrews made their defense tough."

As he closed, Dye couldn’t help offering a few good-natured jibes at his former rivals.

"Mickey Andrews is what made Bobby Bowden a great football coach," he said.

A pause.

"And Bobby has had some great players," he said.

A little laughter from the seats.

"Plus, he plays in the ACC."

Even more laughter.

It was way smaller then the 85,000-plus he used to command, but Pat Dye still knew how to hold a crowd.