Late Auburn coach Pat Dye brought balance to Iron Bowl that still remains

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Pat Dye’s legacy as Auburn’s football coach is often tied to a one-liner at his introductory press conference in 1981 when a reporter asked him how long it would take to beat Alabama.  

60 minutes,” Dye answered.  

Dye, 80, died Monday. He had been dealing with kidney-related issues and tested positive for COVID-19 in the last few months, his family said. The affable coach was a regular on radio stations in Alabama in recent years and still lived the Iron Bowl 24/7 like everyone else in the state.  

It was always about the anticipation for the next 60 minutes. Dye deserves credit for breathing life into a rivalry that was dormant before his arrival in 1981. Alabama coach Bear Bryant had an 18-5 record against the Tigers, and the Crimson Tide owned an eight-game win streak in the Iron Bowl before Dye’s arrival.  

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Auburn was more than 60 minutes away from beating Alabama at that point. That changed on Nov. 27, 1982, in Dye’s second season. That’s when the Tigers marched on a game-winning drive that ended with a TD run that is known by four words.  

“Bo over the top.”  

Jackson’s TD broke a nine-game losing streak to Alabama and sent Bryant out with a loss in his final game against the Tigers. That’s a moment that launched the rivalry into its current state.  

Since 1980, one year before Dye’s arrival at Auburn, the Tigers and Crimson Tide’s series is knotted at 20 games apiece. Dye finished 6-6 against Alabama, and the best rivalries require more than just in-state heat. It requires a competitive balance. Dye achieved that up until his departure in 1992, and it might be hard to believe that the Tigers have an 11-9 advantage since 2000 against the Crimson Tide.  

Alabama vs. Auburn by decade since 1960

1960s: Alabama 8, Auburn 2
1970s: Alabama 8, Auburn 2
1980s: Auburn 6, Alabama 4
1990s: Alabama 7, Auburn 3
2000s: Auburn 7, Alabama 3
2010s: Alabama 6, Auburn 4

Even in the midst of Nick Saban’s dynasty, the Tigers beat their biggest rival four times in the last decade — often in spectacular fashion with even more legendary names.  

“Cam-back.” 

“Kick Six.”  

Perhaps none of that is possible without the impact of Dye, the coach who helped turn a one-sided regional rivalry into the most anticipated rivalry game on the schedule. You can argue it’s still Ohio State-Michigan because of the national brand and its history, but the Buckeyes have a 17-3 advantage against the Wolverines since 2000 and are on their own-game win streak.  

In the present tense, The Game is in the same spot the Iron Bowl was before Dye arrived. Auburn-Alabama has grown with intensity ever since.  Dye lived that one-liner for the next 40 years, and Auburn fans will do the same for the next 40 years looking for the next spectacular victory against the Crimson Tide.  

That, more than anything, is the coach’s legacy. 

Those “60 minutes” will last forever.

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