Sports Legends: SEC Football Standout
Pat Dye played at Georgia and coached at Auburn
Patrick Fain Dye made his mark on two SEC football powerhouses – Georgia and Auburn. He was a two-time All-American guard at the University of Georgia and won four Southeastern Conference championships as a head football coach at Auburn University.
He is a member of the Georgia, Alabama and national collegiate football halls of fame and was once named the most valuable football player in the U.S. Army.
Not bad. Not bad at all for a farm boy who came out of Blythe, Ga., population 250. He may be Blythe’s first millionaire after a settlement with Auburn when he re-tired in 1992.
Dye lives on a farm about 12 miles west of Auburn. He is 72 years old and has 748 acres on which he hunts deer and quail and looks after his Japanese garden. At 6-1, 205, he is only a few pounds off his playing weight.
When Pat Dye came to Auburn as head football coach, the Tigers had not won an SEC championship in 24 years. They had only two 10-win seasons in 24 years. Dye’s teams won an SEC championship in his third year and posted four 10-win seasons in his 12 years as head coach.
How did Dye get to Auburn anyway? Blame it on Vince Dooley and Dooley’s family.
When Auburn was looking for a new head coach in 1981, the man it wanted was Dooley, a former star Auburn player and 17-year legendary coach at the University of Georgia.
When Dooley discussed the offer with his family, his son, Derek, now Tennessee head football coach, objected, and Barbara, Vince’s wife, said that after 17 years in Athens that she was not about to leave.
It was then Dooley went to members of the Auburn selection committee and recommended Dye.
“I told them the truth,” Vince says. “They could not find a better coach than Pat Dye.
“He’s relentless,” Dooley says. Relentless as a player and relentless as a coach, first as an assistant to Bear Bryant at Alabama and then as a head coach at East Carolina and Wyoming.
“Get Dye,” Vince said emphatically. And Auburn did.
In his 12 years at Auburn, Dye’s teams posted a 99-39-4 won-lost-tied record. In 19 years as a Division I head football coach, he had a record of 153-62-5.
In 12 games against his alma mater, Dye-coached Auburn teams beat Georgia seven times.
When Pat was ready for high school, he wanted to find a school with a varsity football team to have a chance to win a football college scholarship. The nearest school with a varsity team was Richmond Academy in Augusta, 25 miles north of Blythe.
So like his brothers Wayne and Nat before him, he would walk to school, ride his bicycle or hitchhike – whatever it took. At Richmond Academy, he was a top-flight student as well as a versatile athlete.
In the Georgia state high school track meets he won the discus and shot put, and as a football player he led his team in tackles and blocks. Pat and his two brothers all received football scholarships to Georgia.
As a player for the Bulldogs, Dye who recovered a fumble to set up the winning touchdown that gave the Bulldogs the 1959 SEC championship.
Dye was not only a two-time All-American guard, but also a two-time Academic All-American.
Brothers Wayne and Nat both lettered at Georgia, but there was only one Pat Dye, in the classroom or on the gridiron.
The happiest days of Dye’s life were the day Richmond Academy beat Atlanta’s Northside for the 1956 State Class AAA state high school championship, the day the Bulldogs beat Auburn in 1959 when he played the whole game, and “the days my children were born.”
Dye’s four children all are Auburn graduates. Pat Jr. is a sports agent, Bret owns and manages a chain restaurant, Wanda is a schoolteacher as her mom was, and Missy looks after her seven children.
Dye’s coaching days are over but he continues to serve as special assistant to the Auburn University president. He attends all Auburn home games and watches the away games on TV.
The greatest all-round football player he ever saw is Auburn’s 2010 Heisman Trophy winner, 6-6, 250-pound Cam Newton.
“There is only one who could do it all better than anyone else. No one comes close to Cam Newton.”
Pat Dye is the only Blythe native to have a gridiron named after him. The Au-burn home games are all played on “Pat Dye Field.”