As the turbulent decade of the 1960s began, SMU football found itself needing a spark to lift it back to national prominence. After the end of the 1961 season, Hayden Fry was named the eighth head coach in school history. Over the next eleven seasons, Fry led the Mustangs to some of the most memorable moments in the program's storied history. The hiring of Hayden Fry to lead the Mustangs is one of the 90 Greatest Moments in SMU Football History.
During his eleven season on the Hilltop, Fry led SMU to three bowl appearances, the 1963 Sun Bowl, 1966 Cotton Bowl, and the 1968 Bluebonnet Bowl. Under Fry's leadership, SMU won its first Southwest Conference Title in 18 years in 1966. Fry also coached some of the greatest players in school history such as quarterback Chuck Hixson and running back Mike Richardson. However, there was one aspect of his entire career that Fry believed to be his most important.
During his time at SMU, he looked closely at an African American prospect named Jerry LeVias - a 5-8, 160-pound receiver who was tiny but nonetheless athletic. Fry persuaded the Beaumont, Texas, native to join SMU in 1966, simultaneously breaking the racial barrier in the Southwestern Conference. "The best thing I did was to open the door for black athletes to go to school close to where they live in the South," Fry said after retiring. "I couldn't understand why it hadn't been done before."
Fry's legacy can still be seen in college football as former assistants and players lead some of the most prominent programs in the nation. Iowa head coach, Kirk Ferentz, was an offensive line coach under Fry from 1981-89. Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops played for Fry as a defensive back from 1979-82 and was a graduate assistant for the team from 1983-87. Other former assistants under Fry who eventually became head coaches in college and professional football include Iowa State's Dan McCarney, Kansas State's Bill Snyder, and Wisconsin's Barry Alvarez, as well as former NFL great Bum Phillips.
Fry retired from coaching following the 1998 season, finishing his career with a record of 232-178-10, which at the time placed him 10th all-time among the collegiate marks. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2003. Perhaps it was fate that Fry was inducted into the Hall of Fame in the same class as Jerry LeVias. Hayden Fry is a football legend and SMU's decision to make him the head coach of the Mustangs in 1962 is one of the 90 Greatest Moments in SMU Football History.