Fry's confidence in Tippett pays big dividends
Sept. 7, 2007
IOWA CITY -- In 1978, Andre Tippett was wondering if he would ever become an Iowa Hawkeye. He was recruited by long-time Hawkeye assistant coach Bernie Wyatt out of Barringer High School in Newark, N.J., but the UI football program was experiencing somewhat of an upheaval at the time. Bob Commings and most of his staff left the school after finishing 2-9 in 1978 -- a season when Tippett was playing at Ellsworth Community College in Iowa Falls.
"People didn't know at the time if they were going to be with the program or not," Tippett said. "Hayden (Fry) was cleaning ship. Bernie Wyatt was a legend and a big East Coast guy. He had a pipeline to the New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania areas. He convinced me to come out to Iowa and I think they found out that I was worth the investment."
Fry's confidence in Tippett was nothing compared to what the Hawkeye players at the time had to buy into. The UI hadn't had a winning season since Jerry Burn's initial squad went 5-4 in 1961. In 1978, the Hawkeyes were shut out twice and scored seven or fewer points in six of 11 games.
"We didn't know what to expect when Hayden came in," Tippett said. "It was a transition period. Iowa began spending money to improve the facilities that allowed us to lift, run and work out year-round. Hayden wanted us to have a certain look. He had an idea and he got it done."
In 1979, Tippett's first season with the team, the Hawkeyes went 5-6. They were 4-7 the following year. Then came the 1981 season, which turned out to be one of the most unforgettable in school history. Iowa opened with a 10-7 victory against Nebraska. After stubbing their toe against Iowa State, the Hawkeyes began a four-game winning streak by upsetting UCLA, 20-7. A 36-7 win at home against Michigan State left Iowa with a record of 8-3 overall, 6-2 in the Big Ten Conference. More importantly, the Hawkeyes were headed to the Rose Bowl to face Washington.
"I'll never forget the rival games against Iowa State, Wisconsin and Minnesota," Tippett said. "I also remember going to Michigan and beating those guys. All we knew growing up in Jersey was wanting to play for Bo Schembechler or Woody Hayes. Having a chance to play against those guys was big in my mind."
A 6-foot-3, 240-pound linebacker, Tippett was the first consensus All-American for Fry at Iowa. He was a two-time first team all-Big Ten selection and was named the defensive end on Iowa's all-time football team. Tippett led the Big Ten in tackles for loss as a junior with 20 (for 153 yards), which is also the Iowa record. He played in the Hula Bowl and the Japan Bowl. The 1981 Hawkeye defense averaged just 86.9 yards and 11.7 points per game. Tippett joined Tracy Crocker, Pete Gales, Bruce Kittle and Brad Webb as team captains of the 1981 Big Ten championship team that ended the season ranked No. 18 by the AP and No. 15 by the UPI.
"We changed an attitude and an environment in the state of Iowa," Tippett said. "We changed how everyone perceived the Hawkeyes."
The playing days at the UI were just the beginning for Tippett. In 1982 he was a second-round draft pick by the New England Patriots, where he played 12 seasons, went to five consecutive Pro Bowls, won the 1985 UPI AFL-AFC Defensive MVP award and played in the 1986 Super Bowl. In 1984 he set a Patriots record with 18 ½ sacks. On Nov. 15, 1999, Tippett was elected to the New England Patriots Hall of Fame after compiling a team-record 100 career sacks.
"I had a great, great time at Iowa," Tippett said. "It made me a better person. People from Day 1 were always fantastic to me and here it is 20 some odd years later and I still have friends in the Iowa City area. I enjoyed to whole college and athletic experience and loved Iowa's beautiful campus."
Tippett is now executive director of community affairs for the Patriots. He gets players involved in the community with such programs as Thanksgiving give-aways and Christmas shopping with the players. Today he is one of five former UI student-athletes who will be inducted into the National Iowa Varsity Club Athletics Hall of Fame. The others are William Buck (Gymnastics 1958-60), Cynthia Haugejorde (Basketball 1977-80), Tim Costo (Baseball 1988-90) and Erica Richards (Field Hockey 1986-89).
"For me, this is a `Wow'," Tippett said. "It is really, really special to be voted by your peers and the people who saw you play. I'm going in with some of the greatest people to ever play sports at the University of Iowa. This is one of the greatest honors I have ever had. This is a special feeling because during the three years I was there, I developed a great bond with the players and coaches."
And even though his physical address has changed, Tippett said his spirit resides in Iowa City.
"I still bleed black and gold," Tippett said. "I'm very proud of what the Hawkeyes have accomplished. I keep plenty of Iowa gear at the house."
OTHER MEMBERS OF THE HALL OF FAME CLASS OF 2007
The class was inducted Saturday, Sept. 8, at the annual Varsity Club banquet and will be recognized at halftime of the football game against Syracuse. The five inductees were selected by a vote of all dues-paying members of the National Iowa Varsity Club. All former Hawkeye athletes who have won at least one major letter are eligible for the Iowa Athletics Hall of Fame. Athletes must have completed their eligibility at least 10 years prior to selection.
HERITAGE ERA ATHLETES
William Buck (Gymnastics) -- An accomplished gymnast, Buck was an NCAA Champion (1958), three-time All-American (1958-60) and three-time Big Ten Champion (1958-1960) in the Pommel Horse. He was also an All-American and Big Ten Champion in the parallel bars in 1959. Buck was awarded the Big Ten Medal of Honor in 1961.
Cynthia Haugejorde (Basketball) -- Haugejorde had a very distinguished career at Iowa and currently holds nine all-time records at Iowa including points and rebounds in a season and career. She was a District V All-American and Wade Trophy Finalist in 1980. Haugejorde was then drafted as the sixth overall pick of the Women's Basketball League in 1980 and was voted an All-Pro and All-Star while playing for the San Franciscan Pioneers. Haugejorde also played two years in the Italian League.
MODERN ERA ATHLETES
Tim Costo (Baseball) -- While at Iowa, Costo was a two-time All-American (1989-90), and a two-time first team All-Big Ten selection (1988-90). Tim was named to the Baseball American and The Sporting News First Teams in 1990. Costo once held Iowa's all-time home run record (41), is fifth all-time in RBIs (163), and started every game in his Iowa career (168). Tim was drafted as the eighth overall pick by the Cleveland Indians in the 1990 free agent draft.
Erica Richards (Field Hockey) -- Richards' legacy at Iowa includes a two-time First Team All-American selection, a three-time First-Team All-Region selection, a three-time First Team All-Big Ten selection, and a nomination for the Honda Broderick Sports Award in 1988. In 1989, Richards was a member of the All-Big Ten Academic Team and she received the Big Ten Medal of Honor. Richards played on the USA National Team in 1990 and was named to the 1981-1991 All-Decade Big Ten Team. She was a member of Iowa's 1986 National Championship team and 1988 National runner-up team.
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