A Lasting Legacy

Feb. 17, 2007

By Jean Neuberger

Special to CSTV.com


Jean Neuberger

Jean is a contributor to CSTV.com.
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Frank Broyles came to the University of Arkansas in 1958, succeeding Jack Mitchell as the next football coach for the Razorbacks. No one then knew the impact he would leave on the Arkansas athletic program, especially when it took seven tries for Broyles to win his first game.


Now, 49 years and 45 national championships later, Broyles has announced that at the end of this year, he will step down as athletic director, a position he has held for 33 years.


Though Broyles was born and raised in Georgia, and played football for Georgia Tech, he believed that Arkansas was the ideal place to be successful. There were no professional teams nearby, and no in-state rival to compete with, making the Razorbacks the heart and soul of a state whose passion for sports runs deep.


Broyles will leave Arkansas as the architect of one of the most successful athletic programs in college sports. He would spend 19 years as football coach, going 144-58-5, winning seven Southwest Conference titles and the 1964 national title. With the national title in football, one in basketball (1994), and a mind-blowing 42 national titles in track and field, only four Division I athletic programs have more championships than the Razorbacks.


His success carried on through his assistants, some of whom played for him at Arkansas. Assistant coaches for Broyles would go on to win over 40 conference titles as head coaches, five national championships, and five Super Bowls. It was this mark that helped create the Broyles Award, now given annually to the top assistant coach in college football.


It wasn't always a smooth ride though for the folks in Fayetteville. Broyles would have showdowns with several coaches, leading to high drama in the Natural State.


It would start with Lou Holtz, who succeeded Broyles as head football coach, but was fired after seven seasons, apparently coming from a heated dispute over Holtz making a political commercial endorsing North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms. Holtz was replaced by Ken Hatfield, who argued with Broyles so much that he took the job at Clemson without visiting the campus. Hatfield's move was so abrupt that Broyles called then-offensive coordinator Jack Crowe off a plane to Clemson to offer him the head coaching job. Eddie Sutton, who was brought in to rebuild a lifeless basketball program, left on bad terms and fled to Kentucky, where he told reporters he'd `crawl on his hands and knees' to get there.


Then came the infamous showdown with Nolan Richardson, who coached the basketball Hogs for 17 seasons. Broyles made Richardson the first African-American coach in Southwest Conference history, and Richardson would lead Arkansas to three Final Fours and a national title. However, a series of mediocre teams led Richardson to rant to the media, saying that if Arkansas gave him his money, he'd step down as coach. Richardson was fired, and soon after would file racial discrimination charges against Broyles and the school. A U.S. Court of Appeals, however, found in favor of the school.


And now, ironically, with constant controversy plaguing the Arkansas football program, it is the unwavering support of Broyles for head coach Houston Nutt that might have forced him to set a retirement date.


He clashed with fans as well, most notably over the "Great Stadium Debate".  Broyles announced that one home football game would move from Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium to Fayetteville's Reynolds Razorback Stadium, which was under expansion at the time. The move caused a deep divide in the state, as Razorback fans argued passionately over the two locales.


However, history will remember Frank Broyles for much better things than clashes with coaches and fans. They will remember his success as a coach, and for not only the 45 national titles, but the 84 conference titles won by Razorback teams. They'll remember it was Broyles who moved Arkansas from the Southwest Conference to the Southeastern Conference, which not only triggered the demise of a conference, but started the trend of `super-conferences' that exist today.


They'll remember his ability to dream big, and then raise the money to make those dreams reality. In the past 12 years, Broyles managed to build new state-of-the-art basketball, baseball, and indoor track facilities, as well as oversee the $120 million renovation and expansion of Reynolds Razorback Stadium. What makes the above so miraculous is that no state money was used for renovation or construction; Broyles raised the money on his own through private donations.


They'll remember his passionate crusade to fight Alzheimer's disease, which took the life of his first wife, Barbara. They'll remember his deep Southern drawl, his never ending optimism, and how he would call the Hogs whenever a new coach was introduced.


It's the end of a long journey at Arkansas, but what a long, strange trip it was for Frank Broyles.










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