Pat Dye leaves a legacy of more than just wins in the SEC

Pat Dye was a legendary SEC player and coach and for more than just the wins.

There are some names you cringe to see trending on social media because you know what the inevitable will be when you check. Today was a day like that when I saw Pat Dye trending on Twitter and Facebook.

Per CBS Sports, Pat Dye, a former All-American at Georgia and legendary coach at Auburn, passed away today at the age of 80 after dealing with a number of health issues, including being recently diagnosed with COVID-19.

Another member of the old guard from the SEC has left this earth, and with him more memories of a time when the conference was rooted in not only tradition, but consistency.

There were a number of constants when you grew up as an SEC fan in the 1970s and 80s, and along with Keith Jackson’s voice, certain head football coaches were always numbered among those things you simply figured on being there.

Bear Bryant was going to be at Alabama

Vince Dooley was going to be at Georgia

Johnny Majors was going to be at Tennessee

Charles McClendon was going to be at LSU

And Pat Dye was going to be at Auburn.

These longtime coaches not only furthered the traditional rivalries between certain schools, but they also managed to forge some very entertaining personal rivalries among themselves.

You think Bo Schembechler vs Woody Hayes was ugly? Just pull a few pages from Dye vs Dooley and you’ll start to see some ugliness.

Take the 1986 edition of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry, played at Jordan-Hare Stadium that year. Georgia came in, lined up, and whipped Auburn on their own turf and cost the Tigers an SEC Championship. Georgia fans rushed the field. Auburn’s grounds crew unleashed the fire hoses. As told by Dooley to

“That was one thing I think made it not so good is that they turned the hose on some of the fans in the stands that were celebrating. Coach Dye, you have to laugh at it, it came to his mind. He said, ‘Well, Georgia needs to take a bath on Saturday night.’ Of course that didn’t go over too well with some of the Georgia people. But that’s Pat.”

Skim through the archives of Alabama newspapers from that era and see some of the fireworks lit between Bear and Pat.

A perfect example from the SI Vault, when Dye — who had formerly been Bryant’s linebackers coach at Alabama — tried giving a little lip to his former mentor.

“Coach Bryant, before you start hugging me, you ought to know that my boys are fixing to get after y’all’s ass,” said Pat Dye, coach of the Auburn Tigers at that time.

“You ain’t trying to scare me now, are you, Pat?” asked the Bear.

“No sir, because I know you don’t get scared. I’m just telling you what we’re fixing to do.”

Pat Dye was the epitome of old school

Old school southern football, y’all. Familiarity and family, followed by knocking each other into the next county just for a year’s worth of bragging rights.

We used to thrive on the expectation of knowing who the coaches were going to be at the best programs in the conference. Now it seems with wait with bated breath to see which one is going to be on the hot seat after just his first season.

Sorry, but it was better in the old days.

Yeah, I know…”OK Boomer”

(I’m pure Gen-X for the record)

I’m not telling anyone to get off my lawn or to wax poetic about walking 20 miles, uphill in the snow (both ways) to school in the morning. Just saying, it was more fun when we knew those guys were going to be there to entertain us, year after year, week after week.

Dye made the SEC a more interesting place to be a spectator and produced some of the best teams in the history of Auburn football. Even after he was long retired, he didn’t want to give up his fight within the conference walls.

In 2002, Georgia was ranked No. 6 in the nation and was headed into Tuscaloosa to face the No. 22 Alabama Crimson Tide. Dye couldn’t resist taking a poke towards at least one of his old rivals.

“I don’t believe Georgia’s man enough to beat Alabama.” Dye told radio host Paul Finebaum before the game.

“Alabama is gonna line up and run the football and they’re gonna play defense and I don’t believe Georgia is man enough to beat that,” Dye said.

Georgia did win the game, and Dye got his share of raspberries from Bulldog fans — something he had become quite accustomed to over the years. In fact, he probably enjoyed it.

Rat poison, right?

Saban and Malzahn is fun. Kirby and Gus is fine, but it’s not Bear and Pat. It’s not Dye and Dooley.

Nothing ever will be.

Rest in Peace, coach.