Former University of Georgia All-American player and Auburn College Football Hall of Fame coach Pat Dye died Monday morning at the age of 80.
“It’s sad to learn of Coach Dye’s passing,” said former UGA head coach and director of athletics Vince Dooley. “Our condolences to his family, his close associates, and friends. We competed hard as coaches but remained good friends and after football shared our love of plants, especially Japanese Maples. Pat was a solid, fundamental football coach who related well with his players. And he certainly endeared himself to the Auburn people by moving the annual Auburn-Alabama game from Birmingham to home and home. He will be missed by us all.”
“I never played with a greater football player than Pat Dye,” said former Georgia teammate and fellow Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton. “He was the ultimate teammate, and I loved the guy. He had so many assets as a player: quick, creative, as great of a competitor as I ever played with. He was instinctive as all great players are. He just simply would not be denied. He loved the physical contact, he liked to mix it up. This is a tough day for me. I’ve lost a lot of teammates in recent years, but this one really hurts. I’ve lost one of the best friends I have ever had.”
Born November 6, 1939 in Blythe, Ga., near Augusta, Pat Dye was first noticed by Bulldog football coaches while playing at Richmond Academy. In 1956, he led the team to the state 3-A state championship while serving as team captain. At season’s end, he had earned both All-America and All-State honors and was named the Class 3-A Lineman of the Year by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Dye’s oldest brother, Wayne, had lettered at Georgia in 1954, ’55, and ’56 and brother Nat was already playing for the Bulldogs in 1956. It was destiny that all three would be Bulldog lettermen under head coach Wally Butts.
As a Georgia lineman, Dye was known for always being around the ball. As a sophomore in 1958, Dye is remembered in a 28-0 victory over Kentucky. On a kickoff, he stole the ball from a Kentucky back and returned it 28 yards for a touchdown.
In 1959 he made the play against Auburn that set up a winning touchdown pass from Fran Tarkenton to Bill Herron clinching the Southeastern Conference championship. With less than three minutes remaining, Dye recovered a fumble at the Auburn 35-yard line. A few plays later with fourth down and 13 to go, Tarkenton hit Herron and the extra point gave the Bulldogs a 14-13 win and the title. It paved the way for the bid to the Orange Bowl and another Georgia victory, 14-0 over Missouri.
At the end of his playing career following the 1960 season, Dye had earned All-SEC honors, was named All-America first team in 1959 and ’60, and was named the SEC’s Most Valuable Lineman by the Atlanta Touchdown Club.
Dye went on to become a successful football coach as an assistant at Alabama (1965-73) and head coach at East Carolina (1974-79), Wyoming (1980), and Auburn (1981-92) where he won four Southeastern Conference Championships. He also served as athletic director at Auburn from 1981-91.
For his accomplishments as both a player and coach, he has been inducted into both the Georgia (1987) and Alabama State Halls of Fame, College Football Hall of Fame (2005), and was inducted into the University of Georgia Circle of Honor in 2013. On November 19, 2005, the playing surface at Jordan–Hare Stadium at Auburn was named Pat Dye Field in the former coach’s honor.