After 50 years, Broyles Looks Back On 'Charmed' Run At Arkansas

Frank Broyles' retirement becomes official at the end of the year

Dec. 29, 2007

DALLAS (AP) - In 1957, Frank Broyles was a first-year football coach at Missouri, still looking for the ideal place to pursue his career in college athletics.

That December, Arkansas lured him one state to the south, starting a partnership longer and more prosperous than anyone could have imagined.

"Never dreamed I'd be here 50 years later, but it's been a charmed life," Broyles said recently. "Nothing but charmed."

Broyles' retirement becomes official at the end of the year, hours before Tuesday's Cotton Bowl between his current school and the one he coached a half-century ago. No. 25 Arkansas faces No. 7 Missouri.

Broyles coached the Razorbacks through 1976 and has remained their athletic director ever since. Jeff Long is set to take over as AD now. Broyles is expected to stay on as a fundraiser - an appropriate role for a man who never misses a chance to talk about the "Razorback Passion" that grips his state.

"That was the big appeal that attracted me," said Broyles, a three-sport athlete at Georgia Tech. "We were fighting Georgia on everything. ... I had seen and could imagine what it's like to be in a state where everybody in the state is pulling for you. They may get mad at you from time to time, but they're still pulling for you."

Broyles, a Georgia native, is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. He went 144-58-5 as Arkansas' coach, and his most impressive legacy might be the list of assistants who worked under him, including Joe Gibbs, Jimmy Johnson, Johnny Majors and Jackie Sherrill. The Broyles Award is now given each year to the nation's top assistant.

Broyles says he always wanted to lose at least one assistant - because that meant he'd just hire another with a fresh outlook.

"If I had my choice, each year I was hoping somebody would get a head coaching job and I could bring in somebody with some exciting new ideas," Broyles said.



As athletic director, Broyles hired Lou Holtz to replace him as football coach and Eddie Sutton and Nolan Richardson as basketball coaches. Sutton took the Razorbacks to the Final Four and Richardson guided Arkansas to the 1994 national championship. Arkansas has also become a track and field power under John McDonnell.

In 1991, Broyles guided the Razorbacks out of the Southwest Conference and into the more lucrative Southeastern Conference. Despite its somewhat remote location, the school's campus in Fayetteville, Ark., boasts palatial facilities in football, basketball, baseball and track.

"Passion is an intense emotion that compels action," Broyles said. "Support can mean anything, but passion means you've got to act and help. We had enough passion."

Ken Hatfield, who played for Broyles and also coached Arkansas from 1984-89, said the athletic director enjoyed looking at film and sharing gameplan ideas even after he stopped coaching.

"That was to be expected," Hatfield said.

Broyles' tenure has included some controversy. Sutton, who left in 1985, talked of a spat with Broyles that led to his departure. Richardson sued the school after he was fired in 2002.

"Nolan was a great value to this program and to the state of Arkansas," Broyles said. "He certainly deserves tremendous credit and praise for what he did. I don't know how we got crosswise but we did."

Broyles met resistance a few years ago when Arkansas reduced the number of football games in Little Rock to accommodate an expanded stadium in Fayetteville.

"I think the toughest time I went through was the move of the one game from Little Rock," Broyles said. "Some of my closest friends - and longest supporters and friends - were on the other side of my wishes."

For Broyles, division within the state was the worst kind of problem. That's an issue for Arkansas these days as well. Football coach Houston Nutt recently resigned after a tumultuous year in which banners criticizing him were flown before games.

Broyles has noticed a change in the flow of information and the way fans follow sports.

"I don't think it's going to change a lot for any coach anywhere, because everybody is now part of the media," Broyles said. "There's 25,000 people that are trying to be the media in this state."

All in all, though, Broyles isn't about to turn on Arkansas fans, who he says are a credit to the state and the school.

"That's the Razorback Passion," he said. "It's encouraging, it's motivating, it makes you want to do better, work harder. All of those side effects to their passion are positive."

Broyles is at his ninth Cotton Bowl with Arkansas, including four as coach. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, an offensive lineman at Arkansas under Broyles, is aware how significant this trip is for his former coach.

"To have him recognized in this area is a special thing," Jones said. "This does give us, certainly Arkansas alumni, but gives every sports fan a time to revisit what coach Broyles has been about."

Hatfield struggled to sum up Broyles' 50 years in one phrase, but finally settled on this:

"A state pride ... that we can compete with anybody," he said.

In other words, that Razorback Passion. Broyles has talked about it for years - and now he embodies it.

"I don't think proud is a proper word. I'm grateful that I had support for all of this time to get the job done," Broyles said. "I had what I considered the best job and the best life."