Former Auburn football coach and athletic director Pat Dye, who guided the Tigers to four Southeastern Conference championships and to a 99-39-4 record from 1981 to 1992, died Monday at the age of 80.
Dye had been hospitalized in recent days and died as a result of complications from kidney and liver failure.
Auburn had won one SEC championship in its history when Dye was hired after a 6-5 season during his lone year at Wyoming. The Tigers went 5-6 during Dye's debut season but followed that up with a 9-3 mark in 1982 and then an 11-1 record in 1983, when they ended a league championship drought that dated to their 10-0 national title season of 1957.
The Tigers would win additional league titles from 1987-89, putting Dye in the elite club of coaches with three straight SEC crowns that included Tennessee's Robert Neyland, Alabama's Paul "Bear" Bryant and Georgia's Vince Dooley. Florida's Steve Spurrier and Alabama's Nick Saban have since joined that group.
"Coach Dye was much more than a Hall of Fame coach and administrator at Auburn," current Tigers coach Gus Malzahn said Monday. "He was an Auburn leader and visionary. 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."
Auburn has won three SEC titles since the Dye era — 2004, 2010 and 2013 — so Dye is responsible for half of the program's eight league championships. The Tigers struggled to a 10-11-1 record in Dye's final two seasons, and he resigned amid an NCAA investigation that led to sanctions preventing the Tigers from playing in bowl games in 1993 (when they went 11-0 under first-year coach Terry Bowden) and 1994 (when they went 9-1-1).
Dye's debut year also included the program's ninth consecutive loss to rival Alabama, a program that wasn't far removed from consecutive national championships in 1978-79. Auburn ended its series futility with a 23-22 triumph in 1982 that was highlighted by freshman running back Bo Jackson vaulting over the Crimson Tide defense and into the end zone on fourth down.
The Tigers defeated Alabama 30-20 in 1989, which was the first Iron Bowl ever held at Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium, but the 1982 game was always Dye's favorite. Auburn has a 20-18 record in the Iron Bowl since its 1982 win.
"That was the first time we had beaten them in nine years," Dye said during a 2016 interview with the Times Free Press. "When Coach Bryant was there, he kind of dominated the series. He only lost five or six times in the 25 years he was there, and since I got to Auburn in 1981, the series is about even. Tommy (Tuberville) won six in a row, and I won four in a row and would have won eight in a row if we didn't miss a field goal in 1984 and they hadn't made one in 1985."
Van Tiffin's 52-yard field goal as time expired at Birmingham's Legion Field propelled Alabama to a 25-23 victory in 1985, but Dye said the 17-15 loss of 1984 hurt worse.
"The one in 1985 was just who had the ball last," Dye said.
Dye was born in Augusta, Georgia, and was a football and track standout at Augusta's Richmond Academy. He signed with Georgia, where he earned All-America honors at guard during his last two seasons (1959-60).
Georgia's 1959 team won the SEC and capped a 10-1 season with a 14-0 blanking of Missouri in the Orange Bowl. In 1960, Dye served as a co-captain with quarterback Fran Tarkenton.
"I never played with a greater football player than Pat Dye," Tarkenton said Monday. "He was the ultimate teammate, and I loved the guy."
After a two-year stint as an outside linebacker with the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League, Dye quickly built his reputation as a coach by serving as Alabama's linebackers coach from 1965 to '73, a stretch that yielded nine bowl games and two national titles.
Dye's first head coaching job was at East Carolina from 1974 to '79, when he compiled a 48-18-1 record. During his time there, the Pirates beat North Carolina in 1975 and tied the Tar Heels in 1979.
In 2005, Dye was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.