Broyles hears the cheers again

By: Bob Holt
Published: Sunday, June 8, 2014
Frank Broyles greets friends and supporters during the reception prior to a banquet in his honor at the John Q Hammons Center in Rogers on Saturday June 7, 2014.
Photo by Ben Goff
Frank Broyles greets friends and supporters during the reception prior to a banquet in his honor at the John Q Hammons Center in Rogers on Saturday June 7, 2014.

ROGERS -- Pat Jones grew up in Little Rock in the shadow of War Memorial Stadium, as he put it, and spent a lot of time there as a child attending Arkansas football games in the 1950s.

"You could go sit wherever you wanted to," Jones said. "We used to play ball on the grass bank before they put the north end zone in."

Jones said freedom of movement in War Memorial Stadium started to change after Frank Broyles became Arkansas' coach in 1958.

"When Coach Broyles got it going, now all of a sudden that running around came to a screeching halt," Jones said. "The stadium started getting expanded and they started playing for titles.

"He changed the way the state was viewed. He changed the way the University of Arkansas was viewed. He changed a lot of things."

Jones, an assistant coach under Broyles in 1974 and 1975, was among about a thousand people celebrating Broyles' life and career Saturday night at a banquet at the John Q. Hammons Convention Center.

Broyles, 89, is retiring as a fund-raiser for the Razorback Foundation at the end of June. He stepped down as athletic director in 2007 after holding that title since 1973. He was the Razorbacks' coach from 1958-76, compiling a 144-58-5 record with seven Southwest Conference titles and a share of the 1964 national championship.

"He's Frank of the Ozarks, you might say," said Loyd Phillips, Arkansas' 1966 Outland Trophy winner as a senior. "He's a tremendous man, and he's done so much for the state of Arkansas."

Before Bret Bielema became Arkansas' coach, he was familiar with Broyles because Hayden Fry -- Bielema's coach at Iowa -- was an assistant for Broyles in 1961. Bielema said it was a thrill to see Broyles at his introductory news conference when he was announced as the Razorbacks' coach in December 2012.

"To be able to say hello to him and have that connection with Coach Fry, it's been invaluable to me," Bielema said.

Bielema said he had lunch with Broyles a few months after being hired and Broyles stressed his longevity at Arkansas. For Bielema, it meant Broyles wanted him to enjoy a long stay with the Razorbacks.

"It meant a lot to me," Bielema said. "I know exactly where he was coming from. That's kind of one of the dreams I chased when I came here, is to be able to establish something and make a blueprint for a long, long time."

Phillips said he wouldn't have missed Saturday night's banquet, that he had to be there to honor his coach.

"When I see him and he says 'Hi, Loyd,' and walks over and shakes my hand, it still gives me butterflies," Phillips said.

Jones and Fry were among many Broyles' assistant coaches and players who become college or NFL head coaches. Others included Barry Switzer, Jimmy Johnson, Ken Hatfield, Houston Nutt, Johnny Majors, Joe Gibbs, Raymond Berry, Doug Dickey and Butch Davis.

"Coach Broyles gave me my break collegiately, as he did a ton of other people," Jones said. "He's touched an awful lot of people in a lot of high places."

Nutt played quarterback for the Razorbacks and was the last football coach that Broyles hired at Arkansas, holding the job for 10 seasons from 1998-2007.

"There's a connection that will never go away," said Nutt, who was among those speaking at Saturday night's banquet. "I'm just glad to be a part of it, because Coach Broyles has done so much in 55 years. I don't think anybody could ever top that number.

"I don't know if people realize what goes with that number is all that he's given back to former players, coaches, fans, people you don't even know that he made a difference in their lives. He's a big-time difference-maker and a winner. He's a legend and an icon."

Other speakers at the banquet included Majors, former Razorbacks Bill Montgomery, Scott Bull, Muskie Harris and U.S. Rep. Steve Womack of Arkansas.

Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe delivered a video message to Broyles as did Hatfield, Lou Holtz, Grant Teaff, Jim Lindsey and Keith Jackson, the former ABC college football play-by-play announcer Broyles teamed with for nine years from 1977-85.

"When Frank Broyles and Keith Jackson showed up, that was like College GameDay now," Jones said. "The vibe surrounding that was immense when they did your game."

Broyles coached his last game in 1976, but he almost always is referred to as "Coach" even now.

"There's not anybody out there that's probably commanded any more respect from players, from coaches -- from everyone -- than Coach Broyles," Jones said. "It's a marvelous story. "

Sports on 06/08/2014