Former TU Coach F.A. Dry a Football Genius
By TERRELL LESTER
Editor at Large
TEACHING TALENT: F.A. Dry, center, was the head coach of the Golden Hurricane from 1973-1976. He recruited players such as Steve Largent, Bill Blankenship and David Rader and guided the Golden Hurricane to four straight Missouri Valley Conference championships and a four-year record of 28-16-1. Under Dry, TU beat Arkansas 9-3 in 1976.
Courtesy The University of Tulsa
In a sport that bespoke violence, he was a gentleman above the fray.
He was a product of an agricultural background who found fame in a community of culture.
He was the tactical engineer in the University of Tulsa’s rise to national football prominence in the ‘60s, and returned a decade later as the field marshal to rescue a stumbling program.
F.A. Dry was a football genius, a spotter of talent, a master of offense, a coach among coaches.
Today, having celebrated his 83rd birthday while living the comfortable life afforded a man of accomplishment, Dry maintains a solid and keen connection with the game he helped to advance, through conversations and visits with contemporaries and former players.
On a regular rotation of three times weekly, Dry can be found on the golf courses near his home in Fort Worth, playing with longtime pals, carding scores in the mid-80s, carrying on animated conversations about football, family and futile five-irons.
It’s a long way from the celebrated period he spent overseeing the football program at TU in the ‘70s.
Handsome, erudite and always accessible, Dry was the toast of a town in love with football.
He was an Oklahoman, and proud of it, born to the farmland of Ottawa County and reared in Fairland. He had played football at Oklahoma A&M, served in the Army during the Korean War and coached at two Tulsa high schools before being summoned to TU by Glenn Dobbs in 1961.
Over the next five seasons, the combination of head coach Dobbs and top lieutenant Dry put together the most dazzling air show in college football.
Dobbs was at the forefront, a gregarious personality with a flair for show business.
Dry was the calming influence, the X and O man, father figure to a roster of young men from assorted backgrounds.
It was his knowledge and implementation of the passing game that made Dry attractive to professional football.
In 1966, the Houston Oilers of the American Football League made Dry an offer too good to refuse. He joined coach Wally Lemm’s staff, taking with him the wisdom and know-how of a one-of-a-kind offensive master.
Lemm retired after the 1970 season, and Dry stepped down as well. The timing could not have been better, for Dry and for the University of Tulsa.
He was hired in 1971 to succeed John Dratz as director of athletics. The football program, from which Dobbs had departed in 1968, was in a downward spiral.
In 37 games, from 1969 through mid-1972, head coaches Vince Carillot and Claude “Hoot” Gibson had a combined 12-25 record.
When Gibson was forced out midway of the ‘72 season, Dry assumed the duties, doubling his work load.
He finished that season winning three of five games.
What he accomplished over the next four seasons, 1973-76, rivaled, and in some cases surpassed, what he and Dobbs had accomplished together a decade before.
Dry, who recruited the likes of Steve Largent, Bill Blankenship and David Rader, guided the Golden Hurricane to four straight Missouri Valley Conference championships and a four-year record of 28-16-1.
Under Dry, the Golden Hurricane even pulled off a 9-3 upset win at Arkansas in 1976.
It was a euphoric period for the city of Tulsa, for the university.
The football team was winning. Dry was running a clean program. The players were good citizens. League championships were celebrated.
But that was the public image. Behind the scenes, Dry was weary, growing increasingly unhappy.
In addition to overseeing the successful football program, he continued to handle an expanding athletics department. Women’s athletics had been added, but Dry’s department staff had not grown at the same rate.
“I couldn’t get any more personnel,” he said recently in an extended telephone conversation. “Our budget was pretty tight.
“It got to be more and more hectic. I didn’t have enough time in the day.”
In mid-1976, he found time one day to engage in conversation with officials from .
“TCU offered me more money than I could make as AD, just coaching football,” Dry said.
TU was in no position to match the offer.
Dry was in no position to remain in Tulsa.
“I loved Tulsa,” he said. “My family loved it. We didn’t want to move. We’d had good success. Everything was moving pretty good.
“We’d recruited some good females, Nancy Lopez and Cathy Reynolds in golf (under coach Dale McNamara). We had started volleyball.
“I should have said, look, if you’ll just give me an assistant AD, or something like that, I probably wouldn’t have left,” he said.
For lack of personnel help, Dry left the city and the university where he had created an enduring, even endearing, football legacy.
His successor, John Cooper, added to that inherited legend, even raising the bar over the next eight seasons.
But once Cooper left after the 1984 season, TU would not enjoy sustained success until the arrival of Steve Kragthorpe in 2003.
In the meantime, Dry did not produce at as he had done at TU. He coached the Horned Frogs for six seasons without achievement.
He spent the 1983 season out of football, his first, he said with a laugh, “in about 100 years.”
A coaching friend throughout the years, Grant Teaff, was at Baylor and offered Dry an offensive-line position before the start of the 1984 season.
Dry readily accepted and stayed with Teaff through his retirement in 1992.
Dry eventually returned to Fort Worth and has made a number of trips to Tulsa, renewing acquaintances and walking around a campus that has undergone a glorious transformation since his heyday.
During the freewheeling conversation with Dry, he touched on a variety of subjects,
In Dry’s formative years, during the Depression, his parents operated a farm and owned a grocery store in Fairland. He didn’t care much for the atmosphere of the store, preferring instead to work on the farm.
It was his high school basketball coach, Ed Olvey, who introduced Dry to, in his words, “all sports.”
“He had a big influence on my life,” Dry said.
Because of his relationship with Olvey, who also served as Fairland’s superintendent of schools, Dry pursued a career in education, accepting a football scholarship to Oklahoma A&M.
“I thought, this is pretty good, this coaching,” Dry said. “It’s got to be better than that farming.”
• Following his discharge from the Army, Dry returned to Fairland for his first coaching assignment. He stayed one year before moving to Tulsa to coach at Edison and Hale.
• While an assistant to Glenn Dobbs during the 1964 season at TU, Dry welcomed a legendary name to the coaching staff: Sammy Baugh. “He was probably as good a mind about the game as anyone I have known,” Dry said. “He tripled my knowledge of the game.”
• Dry has confirmed plans to attend a reunion of TU’s 1964 and 1965 Bluebonnet Bowl teams on Oct. 18. TU will play South Florida that day.
• With experience at the collegiate and professional levels, Dry said, “I enjoyed coaching the pros. It was easier coaching older people,” he said. “You could explain what they could do and they would do it. College kids, you had to teach them how to do it. It was a lot different. But you got to see (college players) develop, and feel like you were helping them develop. The pros, you didn’t.”
• Dry has a granddaughter, junior Paige Panfil, on the TU volleyball team.