By Paul Arnett

Friday, January 22, 1999

Hayden Fry and
‘Big Larry’ gave them
a scare in ’71

KAHULUI -- Hayden Fry needs an older audience than the one he's coaching this week on Maui to fully appreciate his stories.

Not a single player competing in Sunday's Hooters Hula bowl was alive during one of the more memorable college all-star games coached by Fry.

The year was 1971 when the game was still played at old Honolulu Stadium. The Vietnam conflict was front-page news, the Hawaii football program was still eight years removed from a WAC invitation and Fry was a successful head coach at Southern Methodist.

''The three quarterbacks on the other (North) team were Jim Plunkett, Joe Theisman and Rex Kern,'' Fry said after yesterday's practice. ''We had Chuck Hixson, my quarterback at SMU, Dennis Dummit from UCLA and Archie Manning of Ole Miss.''

The only problem was, Manning had a 12-pound cast on his left arm and wasn't able to play. Things went from bad to worse for Fry after Hixson was injured, leaving him with Dummit. One of the coaches Fry expected to help him in the game has a heart attack and couldn't show.

''So they give me an assistant from Hawaii, who's very famous now, by the name of Larry Price,'' Fry said. ''He's one of my dear friends and I'll never forget it. It's halftime and Larry's handling the defense.

''He comes up to me and says, 'Coach, I'm not doing too great of a job on defense.' They had us 35 to zip. And I said, 'Larry, I'm not doing a very good job on offense, so don't worry about it.'

''So we go in at the half and I'm telling my players, 'It's a long damn walk back to the mainland.' Next thing I know, Manning comes up to me and wants to know if he can play the second half.''

These days, the answer to that one would be easy. But Manning convinced the team doctor he could play, so Fry let him.

''Archie's performance was phenomenal,'' Fry said. ''He completes 28 out of 35 passes, and they've got that crazy rule that if you're behind, the other team has to kickoff to you. Well, it wasn't too long we were right back in the game.''

In fact, the South pulled to within three (35-32), only to lose, 42-32, in what Fry called the wildest football game he had ever seen.

''I think they had Joe Paterno and maybe John Ralston,'' Fry said. ''And it was just me and Big Larry. We gave them one hell of a scare. It's those things you never forget as a coach.''

FRY is bundling up many memories this week as his 37-year career comes to a close. He announced his retirement as Iowa's head coach on Nov. 23. With a record of 232-178-10 at SMU, North Texas and Iowa, Fry is the 10th winningest coach in NCAA history.

''My wife has been after me a long time to retire,'' Fry said. ''Alonzo Stagg, Pop Warner and Bear Bryant are the only three Division I coaches to coach more than me. If I had coached four more, I would have caught Coach Bryant.

''But I don't think of myself in those guys' class. Heck, I'll be 70 next month. It was time for me to step aside and let some younger coaches take over and get that thing going again at Iowa.''

Last year was one of the few times Iowa wasn't in a postseason game under Fry's direction. In 20 seasons with the Hawkeyes, Fry won three Big Ten titles, made three Rose Bowl appearances and was involved in 11 other bowl games.

''I've been around a long time and I felt the time was right to step aside,'' said Fry, whose final curtain call is as an assistant on the North for Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr. ''And I can't think of a better place for my career to come to a close.''

Paul Arnett has been covering sports
for the Star-Bulletin since 1990.

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