Pat Dye: Auburn’s savior or tarnished tiger?

By Shane from Center Point

Bob Carlton, the entertainment writer for Alabama’s largest newspaper, The Birmingham News, recently began a tournament type contest pitting sixty-four of the State’s greatest sports legends (in who’s mind?) against each other so the public could vote and pick the “best of the best”. Much to the chagrin of popular sports talk radio host, Paul Finebaum, former Auburn head football coach Pat Dye, wasn’t among those chosen by Carlton to be included in the original field of contestants.

While discussing the issue on his show the day of the initial release, Finebaum ranted and raved about how it was a travesty that coach Dye was being excluded from consideration, sounding noticeably annoyed with Bob and the News’ selection committee. Paul pounded out point after point on the merits of Pat, going as far as to say he deserved to be in the contest, if for nothing else other than the fact that coach Dye had the Iron Bowl moved away from Legion Field.

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Finebaum mentioned a page on his website where Dye was listed with Gene Stallings and several other “best of the rest”. Coach Dye and each of the others listed had a short biography following their name. In the short bio on Dye there were approximately 80 words dedicated to the topic of coach Pat Dye’s dealings with the NCAA and the punishments brought on the institution while under his leadership.

Needless to say, after reading that somewhat negative biography, I had a difficult time understanding how Finebaum, or anyone else, could consider Dye to be a deserving candidate for the greatest legends list.

As a result of that short reading encounter, I decided to take a more in-depth look at the entire episode surrounding Dye’s involvement with infractions during his reign in Tiger land. Naturally, I went to the “horses mouth” for the skinny on the story – the NCAA’s Public Infractions Report.

The report states, “ The violations of NCAA rules that were committed at Auburn University are indicative of what can occur when, in the minds of members of a universities athletic department staff and representatives of its athletics interest, the athletics program becomes more important than the university of which it is a part.” “Auburn University has become one of only three universities that have been placed on probation more than six times by the NCAA.”

That said, Pat Dye, both head football coach and the director of athletics was in charge of every facet of the program. The thing that left the strongest impression on my mind was the disregard for rules and regulations that existed under his guidance. I got the impression after reading the full report that Pat was running a renegade program and the NCAA apparently was convinced it was true.

Yes, coach Dye brought four SEC championships to the Plains. Yes, he was the SEC Coach of the year 1983, 1987 and 1988. He won 99 games in twelve years at Auburn and had a 71% winning average.

I agree with Finebaum that Pat changed the face of the Auburn football program and brought a winning tradition that exists until this very day. I can see why Dye’s impact on the SEC scene probably fascinated and captivated a young reporter like Paul. Coach Dye dominated during the 1980’s – Finebaum’s first decade covering SEC football.

However, I believe that Paul’s longtime friendship with Pat has clouded his objectivity in terms of Dye’s worthiness to be the top sports legend in the State. I agree with Birmingham News that the former Auburn head coach doesn’t deserve to be included in the field of sixty-four.

In my opinion, Patrick Fain Dye was the second best on-the-field coach to ever grace the gridiron in this State. Only his mentor, Bear Bryant, was better at motivating players and getting the most out of his team. Nevertheless, for several reasons Dye’s last two seasons at Auburn were lousy (10-11-1). Next came the national embarrassment that occurs when the dark NCAA cloud descends upon a football program. Pat Dye was totally responsible for everything that happened under his watch, just like all coaches should be. When combined, those are fairly valid reasons to exclude the coach from the upper echelon of the greatest sports legends in Alabama’s storied history.

Apparently, Bob Carlton and his buddies at the Birmingham News don’t think Pat Dye is worthy. Maybe they were trying to confirm for Auburn fans that long-standing, well-known fear the Auburn Family suffers from – that the News is Pro-Crimson Tide.

You can reach Shane via email at