Urban Meyer's Situation Reminds Iowa Hawkeye Fans of Hayden Fry

B.Senior Analyst IDecember 29, 2009

19 Sep 1998:  Head coach Hayden Fry of the Iowa Hawkeyes looks on during a game against the Arizona Wildcats at the Arizona Stadium in Tucson, Arizona. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 35-11. Mandatory Credit: Brian Bahr/Allsport
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Hayden Fry retired as head coach of the Iowa Hawkeyes football team on Nov. 23, 1998. 

It followed his worst season ever as coach. Iowa was 3-8 overall and 2-6 in the Big Ten conference.

It wasn't just the losing that made it his worst season ever.

Not long after his announcement to retire, Fry revealed that he coached the entire season while undergoing treatments for prostate cancer.

"I didn’t know what was wrong," Fry said in a 2006 interview with Hawkeye Insider. "I knew something was wrong because I just got tired very easily. I hadn’t had a physical exam in quite a few years. I finally went over to get a physical to find out what was wrong. One thing led to another, and by the time I got through, I discovered I had prostate cancer."

Fry kept as much of his personal life private as possible. He would enter and exit the hospital through a back entrance at 5 a.m. for treatments, a time when most other patients weren't awake.

Retirement was something few fans were expecting, including Fry's wife Shirley. He only told his wife after the test results came back.

That is when Hayden decided it was time to retire.

"It came as a real shock, and it was very depressing," Fry further explained in his Hawkeye Insider interview. "Had I not had prostate cancer, I’d probably still be coaching because I loved it so much. But I knew that it wouldn’t be fair to the players or the coaches or even myself because I just didn’t have an energy level to really be the hard charger that it takes to be a football coach on the college level."

Maybe those are the same thoughts Urban Meyer is having.

Meyer shocked the world of college football he suddenly decided to step aside as Florida Gators head coach.

Urgent health concerns relating to his heart were the reasons cited for his unexpected departure.

It has been reported that Meyer suffered chest pains following the loss to Alabama that sent him to the hospital. In addition, Sports Illustrated reported earlier this month that Meyer also suffers from an arachnoid cyst that was discovered on his brain in 1998.

The medical circumstances might be different for the two men, but ultimately health forced the same action for two of college football's greatest coaches of all time.

Fry won 140 games while head coach at Iowa, more games than any coach in Iowa history. He finished with 229 victories overall. Had he not been struck by cancer, he would have added to those numbers.

At only 45, Meyer was well on his way to Hayden-like numbers. Meyer has won 95 games in his career, and his 84 percent winning percentage is the highest among all active coaches with a minimum of five years at a FBS school.

But when serious health issues suddenly pop up, winning football games doesn't seem that important any more. Facing the possibility of not being there for their families, both coaches opted to put coaching aside to focus on their health.

Fry underwent intense therapy for his cancer, and the disease moved into remission. He now works for charities, businesses, and investment boards and still stays involved in the Iowa football program.

Meyer appears to be headed for a similar lifestyle. He will take some much-needed time off from football to relax, reflect, and focus on his lingering health issues. 

He left the door open for the possibility of returning to the game, but it appears Meyer's path in life may follow that of Fry's. 

Life might not be the same without coaching, but Hayden and Urban might agree that it is much better than the alternative.