Dan Gable will be honored at this year’s FRY Fest, which starts today in Coralville.
Dan Gable was 23 years old, his mind was wrapped up in preparing for his Olympic wrestling run, and Gary Kurdelmeier was on the phone demanding an answer.
Do you want to coach at Iowa or not?“I go, ‘Whoa, I really haven’t thought about this, when do you want to know?’” Gable said. “They said they’ve got to know by tonight.”
Gable spent the next hour calling his parents and his friends.
Unbeknownst to him, Kurdelmeier, Bump Elliott and Roy Carver had been talking to his family and friends for months after a lunch meeting in Ames when they first proposed the idea to the Iowa State graduate.
“They did a good job figuring me out,” Gable said. “They knew I was busy and I didn’t want to spend a lot of time getting recruited. I was more interested in winning the Olympic games.
“So Iowa started working on my dad and my mom and my friends.”
When Gable called all of them for advice that night, all of them told him the same thing: take it.
“I was set up,” Gable said. “They knew where I would turn to.”
Iowa State came back with an offer, but weren’t “really on top of it.”
“They didn’t really realize what was going on either,” Gable said. “Right away, Coach (Harold) Nichols tried to sway me when he found out, but it was already done.”
Nichols, an Iowa State legend who won five national titles over 32 years as head coach, wasn’t going anywhere. At Iowa, Kurdelmeier took over for longtime coach Dave McCuskey in 1972, but never planned to stay in the job long.
“I could tell he wanted to be in administration,” Elliott said about Kurdelmeier. “I ended up appointing him assistant A.D., and then appointed Dan Gable as head coach.”
Kurdelmeier won two NCAA titles with Gable at his side, then became assistant athletic director under Elliot.
Gable took over in 1976. Elliott hired Lute Olson two years before that. After two football coaches failed to get things turned around for Elliott, he finally turned to Hayden Fry in 1979.
It was a intoxicating time to be a Hawkeye fan.
“As A.D., I was lucky to get the right guys,” Elliott said. “And keep them, with Gable and Fry. Lute was the one that did leave. He wanted to go out west.
“You need real stability in the program. That’s important if you are going to succeed.”
Gable coached 21 years. His record is known — 15 NCAA titles and 21 Big Ten titles.
“He was an easy guy to work with,” Elliott said of Gable. “He didn’t ask for much. All he did was coach that team and produce.”
Gable did the I-club circuit with Olson and Fry.
“We all really respected each other a lot,” Gable said. “We shared the same lockerroom with Lute for a few years and we’d sauna together.”
Iowa State did come back and try to make another run at Gable, but he already had made the switch.
“They could’ve got me early on,” Gable said. “I got entrenched, was moving up the ladder, getting a family. … It’s different than being an athlete.”