Before Parenthood, Craig T. Nelson starred as college football coach Hayden Fox on Coach, a sitcom that most people would be surprised to realize ran for nine seasons and 197 episodes, from 1989 through 1997. On the 20th anniversary of the series' finale, we're taking a look back at the original show that started it all.
1. MINNESOTA STATE UNIVERSITY WAS ACTUALLY THE UNIVERSITY OF IOWA.
Even though the first seven seasons of Coach were set at the fictitious Minnesota State University, series creator Barry Kemp graduated from the University of Iowa's Department of Theatre Arts, and paid homage to his alma mater by giving his main character a similar name as legendary Iowa football coach Hayden Fry. The exterior shots of the show were from the Iowa campus as well.
2. IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY’S MARCHING BAND PLAYED THE SHOW’S THEME SONG.
John Morris composed the opening number for Coach, which doubled as Minnesota State’s theme song. Iowa State University’s football marching band won a 1995 college marching band contest to have their version of the theme song play on the show, which ran during the opening credits until the end of the series.
3. TWO REAL-LIFE MINNESOTA STATE UNIVERSITIES POPPED UP AFTER THE SHOW BEGAN.
When Coach premiered on February 28, 1989, Minnesota State University was a fictitious college. In 1998, Mankato State University became Minnesota State University, Mankato. On July 1, 2000, Moorhead State University became Minnesota State University Moorhead.
4. CRAIG T. NELSON THOUGHT ABC HATED HIM.
Craig T. Nelson was persuaded by Barry Kemp to audition for the network. The actor was so convinced that ABC wasn’t enjoying his efforts in their initial meeting that he left early. To his surprise, they offered him the part the very next day.
5. JERRY VAN DYKE AND NELSON HAD TO WORK ON THEIR CHEMISTRY.
In an interview with Popdose, Jerry Van Dyke, who played defensive coordinator Luther Van Dam, said that he and Nelson had to work on finding their chemistry when the show began. Though he says that they've remained friends and talk all the time, Van Dyke admitted that Nelson was "not easy to get along with" and that "he's pretty much a loner."
6. IT WAS JERRY VAN DYKE’S FIRST SUCCESSFUL TV SHOW, AT THE AGE OF 57.
Van Dyke had previously—and infamously—starred on the one-season sitcom My Mother the Car in 1965, which TV Guide ranked as the second worst television show of all-time in 2002. Kemp specifically wrote the part of Luther Van Dam for the actor because of his “everyman quality.”
7. DICK VAN DYKE MADE AN UNCREDITED APPEARANCE ON THE SHOW.
It had to happen sooner or later. In 1993, during the show's sixth season, Jerry Van Dyke's brother, Dick, appeared on the show as a partygoer who walks across the screen when Luther insists that he can’t be related to anyone at his family reunion in “Christmas of the Van Damned.”
8. CHRISTINE ARMSTRONG WAS A REGULAR IN ELVIS PRESLEY MOVIES.
Actress Shelley Fabares, who played Hayden Fox’s girlfriend-turned-wife on the series, co-starred with The King in Girl Happy, Spinout, and Clambake.
9. CHRISTINE ARMSTRONG ALSO SANG A NUMBER ONE SONG.
Fabares sang “Johnny Angel,” which was the number one song for two weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 in April 1962.
10. CLARE CAREY GOT THE ROLE OF COACH’S DAUGHTER BECAUSE SHE WAS THE MOST BELIEVABLE MIDWESTERNER.
Clare Carey, who played Hayden's daughter Kelly, was born in Zimbabwe and grew up in Santa Barbara, California. But in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Carey said that what got her the role was that, "They thought I was the most believable Midwesterner!"
11. DAUBER’S FIRST NAME WAS MICHAEL.
Coach's Michael Daubinksy was usually only referred to by his nickname, "Dauber." In one episode, even Hayden didn’t know who Michael Daubinsky’s girlfriend was speaking of when she referred to him by his given name.
12. DAUBER IS THE VOICE OF PATRICK ON SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS.
Bill Fagerbakke’s run as Offensive Coordinator Dauber ended in 1997, the same year that he successfully auditioned to voice Patrick Star on SpongeBob SquarePants. For the first few years of SpongeBob, he referred to Patrick as “AquaDauber.”
13. SHOWRUNNERS BEGRUDGINGLY AGREED TO TAKE PART IN AN ABC CROSSOVER STUNT IN ITS FINAL SEASON.
Competing with the 39th Annual Grammy Awards on February 26, 1997, ABC had characters from The Drew Carey Show, Ellen, Grace Under Fire, and Coach meet each other in Las Vegas on a night called “Viva Las Vegas.” Craig T. Nelson refused to take part, so Luther ended up on The Drew Carey Show getting into a bidding war with Mimi in Sin City. (For what it’s worth, Ellen DeGeneres also refused to take part.) The title of that night’s installment of Coach was “Viva Las Ratings.”
14. THE SERIES FINALE OF COACH REFERRED TO A CLASSIC SHOW WITH ONE OF THE MOST FAMOUS SERIES ENDINGS OF ALL TIME.
In “Leaving Orlando,” Hayden return to Minnesota to find three brothers—Larry, Darryl, and Darryl—in his cabin. Yes, the same Larry, Darryl, and Darryl from Newhart, which was also created by Barry Kemp.
15. NELSON, VAN DYKE, AND FAGERBAKKE REUNITED ON TV IN 2004.
Nelson played police chief Jack Mannion on the CBS drama The District, which was on the air from 2000 to 2004. In “The Black Widow Maker,” Van Dyke played what he described as a “cranky and brusque” small-town judge, while Fagerbakke played a kindly officer who was described in the script as “better suited to being a florist.” Though, in 2015, it was announced that a reboot of the show would be coming back to screens, plans to resurrect Coach were eventually scrapped.