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Former Auburn coach Pat Dye, right, signs a football for Andy Whitt, middle, while Justin Widener waits for an autograph.
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
Former Auburn coach Pat Dye, right, signs a football for Andy Whitt, middle, while Justin Widener waits for an autograph.

Athens High welcomes Dye

By Brooke Milam
bmilam@decaturdaily.com · 340-2460

ATHENS — When former Auburn football coach Pat Dye stepped to the podium as the honored guest at Athens High's inaugural Golden Eagles Legends Dinner, he quickly realized he was in good company.

And that didn't mean a room entirely full of War Eagle fans.

"This is supposed to be Alabama country up here, so if you're an Alabama fan, hold up your hand and don't be afraid," Dye said.

He then explained why he could relate to the scattering of Tide fans. "Yep, we're speaking to a mixed group, and that's fine," he said. "I had the pleasure of coaching at both places, and I have great memories of both."

Dye’s first coaching job was as an assistant at Alabama under Bear Bryant before stops as a head coach at East Carolina and Wyoming.

But he became a legend by going 99-39-4 as Auburn’s leader from 1981-1992, including four SEC championships in 1983 and 1987-89.

In 2005, Dye was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Also, the playing field at Jordan-Hare Stadium was named for him the same year.

From War Eagles to Golden Eagles, the 67-year old Dye spoke candidly to several hundred Athens High supporters that filled the Beasley Center at First United Methodist Church in Athens about matters that ran deeper than football and spanned lines of team allegiance.

Earlier in the night, beloved Athens citizen Pat Waldrop was presented with the first Athens Golden Eagle Community Service award.

The cause was to raise money for Athens High athletics and it likely is needed, considering that the school’s varsity football team has only four home football games this year.

What normally brings Dye to Athens is his daughter Missy, son-in-law Stan McDonald, who is a local attorney, and seven grandchildren. Dye’s grandson, Lewis McDonald, will be a sophomore on the Golden Eagles’ varsity squad this season.

And while Dye is remembered most as a legendary Auburn head coach, he reflected on days as an Alabama assistant under “Bear” Bryant as well.

Still, when Dye speaks of “we,” he means Auburn.

“For the past 25 years, we’ve had a pretty good run,” he said. “Some of it has come at the expense of Alabama, and Alabama has had some success at the expense of Auburn.

“But what you need to understand is we’ve got two great schools and two great programs. And that’s what I’ve learned over the years — that we have two great institutions.”

Bold as ever and not afraid to make predictions for the states’ SEC powers, Dye said he expects a standout year for both programs.

“With Tommy (Tuberville), right now in my opinion I think we’re the strongest we’ve ever been,” Dye said.

“And really, both schools (Auburn and Alabama) have a lot to be excited about.”

As McDonald put it, when introducing his father-in-law as the guest speaker: Thursday night was special because “the legend of Athens High School and the legend of Pat Dye came together.”

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