Rest In Peace, Bill Brashier

By RossWB on November 8, 2022 at 7:11 pm
RIP, Bill Brashier
courtesy: Iowa Athletic Department

One of the most remarkable things about Iowa football is that the program has had only two head coaches since 1979: Hayden Fry and Kirk Ferentz. Considering the average tenure for a college football head coach is probably around 3-4 years, the fact that Iowa has had just two in 40+ years is wildly improbable. You can only maintain a 20+ year tenure at a program with sustained success, though, and Fry and Ferentz managed that through a shared foundation: rock-solid defenses. Kirk Ferentz began his tenure with the incomparable Norm Parker and replaced him with the also-excellent Phil Parker (no relation) after Norm retired in 2011. For Hayden Fry, his right-hand man at defensive coordinator was Bill Brashier, who passed away at the age of 93 last Friday. 

Brashier, like Fry, was a folksy Texan. He was born in Eastland, Texas, on May 30, 1929 and went to be a three-year starter at North Texas, where he played quarterback, defensive back, and punter. (That's positively Nile Kinnick-esque.) Brashier was no slouch as a player, either -- he had 10 interceptions in the 1951 season and 19 for his career at North Texas; both still stand as school records for the Mean Green. After serving a three-year stint in the Navy and spending time as a graduate assistant at UTEP, Brashier eventually found himself back at North Texas, this time as a coach. He spent 11 years as a coach at North Texas and this is where his association with Hayden Fry began -- he was a member of Fry's Mean Green staff in the 1970s. 

When Fry got the Iowa job, he brought Brashier, a lifelong Texan, with him to Iowa City, first as defensive backs coach and then as defensive coordinator. Brashier, like Fry, quickly acclimated to life in Iowa and became entrenched in Iowa City, serving on Hayden's staff until his retirement in 1995. He was eventually promoted to assistant head coach before the 1983 season. In Brashier's final game, the 1995 Sun Bowl, Iowa beat Washington, 38-18. During Brashier's 17 years on the Iowa staff, the Hawkeyes won 8+ games 10 times, went to 12 bowls (including three Rose Bowls), and claimed three Big Ten championships. It was, without question, one of the most successful periods of in the history of Hawkeye football. 

Hayden Fry's Iowa teams have a reputation for offensive innovation -- Hayden emphasized passing in a way not seen under the three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust approaches championed by Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler to such success. But Hayden knew that you could not compete in the Big Ten -- and certainly could not contend for championships -- without a lockdown defense, and Brashier helped build that for the Hawkeyes. In Iowa's first Rose Bowl season under Fry, the defense held opponents to 13.1 ppg, 14th in the nation. The Hawkeyes ranked in the Top 25 in scoring defense five times between 1981 and 1986, and again in 1991; not coincidentally, those years are also when Iowa made three Rose Bowl appearances. 

15 defensive players from Iowa were selected in the NFL Draft during Brashier's tenure. That includes future Hall of Famer Andre Tippett, as well as standouts Merton Hanks and Larry Station. He also coached several other players who didn't go on to have notable NFL careers but have carved out impressive coaching legacies of their own, including the Stoops brothers (Bob, Mike, and Mark) and Bret Bielema. 

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz, who coached alongside Brashier on those '80s Iowa teams, had this to say about his life and legacy: 

“Bill Brashier was a tremendous defensive coach. Leadership was an integral part of every victory and championship our program achieved in the 1980’s and 1990’s, and I was honored to coach alongside him as a young assistant. He got the absolute best out of all of his players every single day. They loved and respected him as a leader and as a person.

“Bill was never flamboyant or flashy. He didn’t seek the spotlight. As a coach, he was without peer. On top of that, Bill was an incredible mentor to young coaches like Barry Alvarez, Dan McCarney and me. There was no better person for a young coach to be around. Mary and I send our heartfelt condolences to Bill’s wife, Ann, his family, his former players and all of his friends.”

Brashier is survived by his wife, Ann, three children, six grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. Our thoughts go out to the Brashier family as they mourn this loss. Rest in peace, Bill. Your days in Iowa City will forever be celebrated and remembered fondly by Hawkeye fans. 

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