The show aired from February 28, 1989 to May 14, 1997, lasting for nine seasons & 200 episodes.
In early seasons, Coach Fox continues to come to grips with the emerging womanhood of his "little girl", Kelly, now a campus coed played by Clare Carey, who after being raised mostly by her mother, enrolled at Minnesota State mainly because she wanted to be near her father. Kelly dated (and eventually married in the second season) theater mime Stuart Rosebrock (Kris Kamm), whom Hayden could not stand. Their marriage ended in 1991 after Stuart, returning from filming his own kids TV show, "Buzzy the Beaver" told Kelly that he'd met another woman.
While overtly supporting Kelly with her heartbreak, Coach Fox clandestinely couldn't have been happier to have "Stu" out of both of their lives. After graduating from Minnesota State in 1993, Kelly was hired by a major ad agency in New York. She was only seen in occasional guest spots thereafter.
Much of Hayden's coaching job, besides mentoring his players, was working with his defensive coordinator Luther Van Dam (Jerry Van Dyke), a lifelong bachelor who often struggled with self-confidence, and special teams coach Michael "Dauber" Dybinski (Bill Fagerbakke), an ex-player at Minnesota State and a stereotypical "dumb jock" whose ongoing joke was that he had not yet graduated from Minnesota State despite being enrolled for several years (he would later graduate with three bachelor's degrees in physical education, business administration, and forestry without even knowing it until he got his transcript for that semester), but who would often surprisingly be of intellectual help to the team, usually learned from a class he was attending or because he was a fan of "Nova".
Ladies' basketball coach Judy Watkins (Pam Stone) often engaged in prank wars with Hayden.
His relationship with her was complicated by the fact that Dauber dated her until 1995, when she confessed to an affair after returning from a coaching job in Romania. Also seen throughout the run was Minnesota State athletic director Howard Burleigh (Kenneth Kimmins) and his wife, Shirley (Georgia Engel), who were close friends with Hayden and Christine.
At the end of season 7, Hayden is offered a job with a fictional NFL expansion team called the "Orlando Breakers." He agrees and takes his coaching staff with him for the final two seasons.
The Foxes adopted a baby boy named Timothy (played by twins Brennan and Brian Felker). Many season 9 episodes focused on the couple's newfound joy of parenthood, as they had been unable to conceive a child together before they decided to adopt.
- Craig T. Nelson as Hayden Fox (1989–1997)
- Shelley Fabares as Christine Armstrong (1989–1997)
- Jerry Van Dyke as Luther Van Dam (1989–1997)
- Bill Fagerbakke as Michael "Dauber" Dybinski (1989–1997)
- Clare Carey as Kelly Fox (1989–1994)
- Kris Kamm as Stuart Rosebrock (1989–1991)
- Kenneth Kimmins as Howard Burleigh (1989–1997)
- Georgia Engel as Shirley Burleigh (1991–1997)
- Katherine Helmond as Doris Sherman (1995–1997)
The creator and producer of the show, Barry Kemp (who was an alumnus of the University of Iowa) paid homage to his alma mater by naming the main character of Coach Hayden Fox after the University of Iowa's longtime football coach, Hayden Fry.
Many of the exterior shots of "Minnesota State" are actually of the University of Iowa, usually of students walking around the Iowa Memorial Union in downtown Iowa City.
The screen shot when returning from commercial breaks is of the outside of the Hillcrest dormitory. There are also numerous shots of Quadrangle Residence Hall as well as the Field House, which once served as the venue for University of Iowa basketball.
Minnesota State University
In 1963, several bills before the Minnesota State Legislature were developed to create a research university at what was then Mankato State College. Representative Mike McGuire of Montgomery, Minnesota submitted an amendment that would have changed the name of the institution to Minnesota State University; this occurred nearly 26 years prior to the airing of the first episode of "Coach".
During the series run, no school was officially named Minnesota State University. Separately, in 1998 an act of the Minnesota legislature allowed for the renaming of Mankato State University to Minnesota State University, Mankato due to its growing size and to provide better recognition across the Midwest region.
As a reaction to this and at the urging of the Board of Trustees of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System, two years later, in 2000, Moorhead State University was also renamed Minnesota State University Moorhead to try to provide parity to other regions regarding the impact of the Mankato name change.
The common nickname of Minnesota State has always traditionally referred to Minnesota State University, Mankato since this historical period.
The athletic programs at Mankato are widely referred to in the media as "Minnesota State", without a city identifier, although its sports teams are named the Mavericks instead of Screaming Eagles.
There are several similarities between fictional Minnesota State University and the real-world Minnesota State Mankato. The Minnesota State Screaming Eagles school colors of purple and gold are also the colors for Minnesota State Mankato and the Minnesota Vikings.
The location for the fictional Minnesota State University is never established, however, in several episodes it is mentioned that the campus is located about an hour away from the Twin Cities. The distance from Minneapolis to Mankato is approximately an hour away by car.
Coach is shown to live in a cabin near a lake, similarly several faculty in reality live in cabins on nearby Lake Washington. The founding of the fictional university is shown to be 1867 in the opening credits and the real university at times was also referred to as being founded in 1867. Later decisions by school administration placed the official date as being founded in 1868.
During the course of the show, Minnesota State is never mentioned to belong to any college football conference. The Screaming Eagles were mentioned to play big-name schools like Michigan State and Tennessee, but other fictional schools, such as Western Colorado, are also mentioned; this could imply that Minnesota State acts as an independent in college football.
In the intro of the show, is it shown that Hayden got his coaching start at Chattanooga University, a fictionalized version of the real-life University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (which brands its athletic program as "Chattanooga").
Outdoor shots of campus and stadium were filmed at Kinnick Stadium at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa, where creator Barry Kemp went to college. In several episodes, Hayden Fox refers to visiting Christine in the Twin Cities, and it is evident that he is maintaining a long-distance relationship.
In the early 90s, the producers of the show held a contest to have a real college marching band record the theme song for the show. The contest was won by the Iowa State University Cyclone Football 'Varsity' Marching Band, and their recording was used as the theme until the series ended. The Iowa State University Cyclone Football 'Varsity' Marching Band was also shown in the opening sequence of the show.
In the 1993–1994 television season, Hayden Fox led his Minnesota State Screaming Eagles to victory in the Pioneer Bowl, held in San Antonio, winning the national championship. In real life, Florida State won the national championship that season.
The Alamodome opened in May of 1993, in time for the real-life 1993 football season. However, the first Alamo Bowl and Pioneer Bowl games had not been played yet.
Also, the real-life Pioneer Bowl is not even an NCAA Division I game but rather a postseason game played between the champions of two Division II conferences whose members are all historically black schools.
The footage from the 1993 edition of the Wisconsin vs. Minnesota rivalry game played in the Metrodome was used for the actual game to represent Minnesota State and the fictional West Texas University (not to be confused with the real West Texas A&M University or Texas Western College, now known as UTEP). Then-ABC sportscaster Al Michaels provides the commentary during the game.
In the 1995 season, Hayden Fox gets a chance to fulfill his ultimate dream and become the head coach of an NFL team. He accepts the head coaching position with the (fictional) expansion team the Orlando Breakers, owned by recent widow Doris Sherman (played by Katherine Helmond).
However, Sherman is more interested in making money off of the team as well as gimmicks (such as asking if Hayden would like to coach a basketball team she was thinking of buying after selling the Breakers and trading away their first-round draft pick for a pair of cruise tickets) than she is in letting Coach Fox guide the Breakers to success on the football field.
Nearly the entire crew from Minnesota State followed Fox to Orlando, including Luther and Dauber, who remained his assistant coaches.
In the show's final season, Hayden is able to coach the Breakers to a wild card spot in the NFL Playoffs but loses to the Buffalo Bills in that playoff game at Buffalo.
The name Orlando Breakers was a salute to the defunct USFL and the Boston/New Orleans/Portland Breakers.
The Breakers themselves were a parody of the fellow Florida-based Jacksonville Jaguars, who, like the Breakers, joined the NFL in 1995 as an expansion team and made the playoffs their second season as a wild card team and, like the Breakers, played the Bills in their first playoff game. (Unlike the Breakers, the Jaguars came out victorious, 30–27, eventually losing to the New England Patriots 20–6 in the AFC Championship Game.)
Another tie-in between the Breakers and the Jaguars was that the very first game the latter played in, the 1995 Pro Football Hall of Fame Game (against their expansion brethren the Carolina Panthers), aired on ABC, the same network as "Coach".
The 200th and final episode of "Coach" (entitled "Leaving Orlando") aired on ABC on May 14, 1997.
The episode's final scene featured the whole cast thanking the audience for nine years of the show, with cast member Jerry Van Dyke denying the series ending, thinking the show must go on; but the cast and director finally tell Van Dyke that the show is truly over, with Van Dyke still denying the show's finale: As the lights go out, Van Dyke mumbles, "I don't care what you say, I'm coming to work Monday."
The final episode also includes an epilogue showing Hayden retired from coaching and moved back to his cabin in Minnesota to raise his son with Christine being a working wife at a local station.
Luther also retired and continued his relationship with Doris, building a Graceland style manor as tribute to his idol, Elvis Presley.
Howard and Shirley sold their collection of rare Barbie dolls, using the capital to acquire and manage a successful dinner theatre in Florida.
Dauber succeeded Hayden as the head coach of the Breakers, winning back-to-back Super Bowl championships and going on to join the Monday Night Football announcing team after his retirement from football.
The final scene shows a 10-year-old Tim having two friends who bear a striking resemblance to child versions of Dauber and Luther.
Scheduling conflict with Monday Night Football
For season seven, ABC aired original episodes of "Coach" on Monday night before "Monday Night Football" as part of a football-themed night; this was successful on the United States east coast, where MNF games aired from 9:00 pm to 12:30 am, local time.
However, on the west coast, MNF games aired from 6:00 pm to 9:30 pm (with possible overtime), leaving some Monday network programming with no time slots.
During this interval, the show was aired at unusual hours on the west coast; for instance, Seattle ABC affiliate KOMO aired new episodes of Coach on Saturday afternoons (coincidentally, ABC also aired college football games most of the time on Saturday afternoons).
Some fans have cited this time-slot displacement on the west coast as a reason for low ratings in the show's seventh season.
"Coach" was moved to Tuesday nights the following season which resulted in a bump in ratings, returning the show to the top 20).
- 1992: Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor – Comedy Series (Craig T. Nelson)
- 1996: Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor - Comedy Series (Tim Conway)
American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) Awards
- 1992: Top TV Series
- 1993: Top TV Series
- 1994: Top TV Series
- 1995: Top TV Series
- 1996: Top TV Series