Razorbacks' Broyles dies at 92

By: Bill Bowden
Published: Tuesday, August 15, 2017
In this Dec. 6, 1975, file photo, Arkansas coach Frank Broyles is carried from the field by players Teddy Barnes, left, and Richard LaFargue (52) following his team's 30-6 NCAA college football game victory over Texas A&M in Little Rock. (AP Photo/Ferd Kaufman, File)
In this Dec. 6, 1975, file photo, Arkansas coach Frank Broyles is carried from the field by players Teddy Barnes, left, and Richard LaFargue (52) following his team's 30-6 NCAA college football game victory over Texas A&M in Little Rock. (AP Photo/Ferd Kaufman, File)

FAYETTEVILLE -- Frank Broyles, the most prominent figure in Arkansas sports history, died Monday from complications of Alzheimer's disease, according to a statement from the Broyles family.

He was 92.

"He passed peacefully in his home surrounded by his loved ones," the Broyles family said. "For 92 years, John Franklin Broyles lived nothing short of a remarkable life. To all who would listen, Frank Broyles was quick to proclaim, in his unmistakable and infectious southern tone, that he was blessed to live 'a charmed life.'"

Broyles spent a half century at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, quickly becoming one of the most familiar and powerful figures in college sports.

He was head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks football team from 1958-76, leading the team to a shared national championship in 1964 and a record of 144 victories, 58 losses and 5 ties.

Broyles and the governors

Eleven men served as Arkansas governor during Frank Broyles’ tenure as coach and/or athletic director at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. Here is a look at the governors during Broyles’ tenure before his retirement as athletic director in 2007:

Orval Faubus; 1955-67

Winthrop Rockefeller; 1967-71

Dale Bumpers; 1971-75

Bob C. Riley*; 1975

David Pryor; 1975-79

Joe Purcell*; 1979

Bill Clinton; 1979-81

Frank White; 1981-83

Bill Clinton; 1983-92

Jim Guy Tucker; 1992-96

Mike Huckabee; 1996-2007 Mike Beebe; 2007-15

*Acting

What they're saying

“We take peace in knowing that his faith was the foundation for the impact he made on the lives of others. From innumerable private moments with his family and friends, to countless public interactions with millions in his various roles, Coach Broyles shared his attitude of gratitude and encouraged others to make a difference.”

The Broyles family

“This is a day we knew would come, but it is still a great loss to learn of the passing of Coach Broyles.”

Asa Hutchinson, governor of Arkansas

“His passion for the Razorbacks was infectious, his spirit was indomitable and his vision helped transform a program, a university and an entire state. His legacy in our state is unmatched.”

Jeff Long, Arkansas athletic director

“Outside of my father, Frank Broyles was the most influential man in my life. My thoughts and sincere best wishes are with his family today, and our loss is shared by millions.”

Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys and a member of Arkansas’ 1964 national championship team

“The legacy he leaves behind, his devotion to Razorback fans everywhere and the countless lives of young men and women he touched along the way are things that make us all proud. Heaven will have no louder cheerleader for the Razorbacks than Coach Broyles.”

Leslie Rutledge, Arkansas attorney general

“Few men have the vision and strength to guide so many. Coach Broyles is the standard of Arkansas leadership and all of college football.”

Bret Bielema, Arkansas football coach

“Few people could match Frank Broyles’ dedication to the University of Arkansas: 57 years of devoted, distinguished service. In that time, he not only led teams to multiple Southwest Conference titles and a national championship, he also built an athletic department that was the envy of the South.”

Tom Cotton, U.S. senator

“He wanted to make the University of Arkansas as good as it could be, and nobody cared more about this place than Frank Broyles.”

Dave Van Horn, Arkansas baseball coach

“Frank Broyles made a lifelong impact on thousands of Arkansas student-athletes and millions of fans and alumni, all who knew him as Coach Broyles, while positively altering the course of the University of Arkansas and the entire state of Arkansas.”

Greg Sankey, Southeastern Conference commissioner

“The impact he had on Razorback athletics and the men’s basketball program will be felt for generations to come. His passion for the university was unmatched and his legacy will live on forever.”

Mike Anderson, Arkansas men’s basketball coach

Frank Broyles was 6 feet 2 inches tall, but he was a larger-than-life figure to many people in Arkansas. Cartoonist George Fisher of the Arkansas Gazette depicted Broyles as "Frank of the Ozarks," a reference to the seven-story Christ of the Ozarks statue near Eureka Springs.

Under Broyles' leadership, the football team was a source of pride for fans across Arkansas.

"He elevated the program, taking it from a small, regional Southern school to the national prominence it has today," said Ken Hatfield, who played on the Razorbacks' 1964 championship team and was head coach from 1984-89.

UA Athletic Director Jeff Long said Broyles' "passion for the Razorbacks was infectious, his spirit was indomitable and his vision helped transform a program, a university and an entire state. His legacy in our state is unmatched."

Frank Broyles has died at the age of 92

(By Blake Sutton )
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Warren Stephens, chairman, president and CEO of Stephens Inc. of Little Rock and a longtime financial supporter of UA athletics, said: "It's the passing of an Arkansas legend. No one has done more for Arkansas Razorback athletics than Coach Broyles, and I doubt if anyone ever will. You cannot overstate what he has meant to the Razorback program."

Broyles' teams won or shared seven Southwest Conference championships and won two Cotton Bowl games. His teams won 22 consecutive games in the mid-1960s.

"This is an immeasurable loss of a man whose personality and presence touched millions of athletes, students, coaches and fans for more than seven decades -- a man whose spirit and impact on lives will continue to be felt for generations to come," said Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys football team.

Jones, who played on Arkansas' 1964 championship team, remembers Broyles' locker room speech before the Razorbacks played No. 1 Texas that year in Austin.

"Every person in our state from 5 to 95 will have their ear to the radio," Broyles told the team. "What an opportunity it would be to make a difference in the state."

"And of course we went out to beat the No. 1 team in the nation," Jones said of the Hogs' 14-13 victory. "He made us aware as young people we were doing something to lift Arkansas -- not just the school and the Razorbacks, but the state of Arkansas. He painted that picture for us."

From 1973-2007, Broyles was the university's athletic director, steering the Hogs from the Southwest Conference to the Southeastern Conference in 1991 in a move that has helped ensure the program's long-term financial stability.

After his retirement as athletic director, Broyles worked as a fundraiser at the Razorback Foundation until 2014 while also assisting caregivers and family members of those who have Alzheimer's disease through the Frank and Barbara Broyles Foundation.

Barbara Broyles, Frank's wife of 59 years, died from complications of Alzheimer's disease in 2004. He married Gen Whitehead the following year.

Former President Bill Clinton remembers Frank Broyles as a leader in athletics and in the battle against Alzheimer's.

"He was a leader of character, intelligence and determination, and on his watch Arkansas became a leader in many sports," said Clinton, who also served as Arkansas' governor during Broyles' time at the university. "A big part of his legacy came later in his efforts to find a cure for Alzheimer's and his support for families struggling with it, including his work with the U.S. Senate special committee on Alzheimer's which Hillary helped to form."

GEORGIA ROOTS

Broyles was born Dec. 26, 1924, in Atlanta's Piedmont Hospital to O.T. (Ozie Taliaferro) Broyles and Louise Solms Broyles and grew up in Decatur, an Atlanta suburb.

The daughter of German immigrants, Broyles' mother was held back from entering the first grade until she could learn to speak English, Broyles said in a 2007 interview with the University of Arkansas' Pryor Center for Arkansas Oral and Visual History.

Broyles said his maternal grandfather was an architect who helped build the Georgia state Capitol, and his maternal grandmother ran a four-story apartment building in downtown Atlanta. His paternal grandfather was a vice president of the Georgia Railroad & Banking Co. who owned 30 or 40 neighborhood grocery stores that O.T. helped run.

Frank Broyles had four older siblings -- a sister and three brothers. The three brothers have passed away. As the baby of the family, Frank Broyles said he was spoiled, especially by his sister, Louise, a semi-professional basketball player who gave him spending money and bought him his first suit.

Frank Broyles' earliest memories were of the Great Depression. He often had grits for breakfast and fried grits for dinner.

By the time he was in the fourth grade, Broyles was a star in three sports -- football, baseball and basketball. He was a center and a barefooted punter on his grammar school football team. That's the way he had learned to kick on the vacant lot next to his house.

Every day was the same. Broyles would go to school, play ball, go home, read the sports pages in the Atlanta newspapers, study and go to bed at 7:30 p.m.

His mother would let him drink buttermilk and lemonade. No caffeine. Broyles had his first cup of coffee during a typhoon on Okinawa near the end of World War II.

Broyles would help deliver produce on his bicycle when he was 10 years old because his father couldn't afford to put gas in the car.

But O.T. didn't make Frank work at any real jobs while he was in school. He knew sports was his son's life, and making his grades was also important. Frank Broyles said the only real work he ever did was two weeks of bluing nails when he was 16 years old so he could play semi-professional baseball for the Atlantic Steel team.

Broyles was considered better at baseball and basketball than football back then.

"Most of the time I was growing up, I wanted to be a major league baseball player," he said in his autobiography, Hog Wild, which was co-written by former Arkansas Gazette and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporter Jim Bailey.

A shoulder injury in a football scrimmage at the age of 21 ended Broyles' baseball dream.

Broyles' father inherited a few grocery stores from his father but lost them during the Great Depression because he was "too good-hearted" to collect from people who owed him money, Broyles wrote in Hog Wild. So O.T. began selling Chevrolet automobiles and later went into insurance work.

Broyles' grades were good enough to get him into Georgia Tech, where he was a star quarterback and SEC player of the year in 1944.

Georgia Tech played the University of Tulsa in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 1, 1945. O.T. left for Miami early so he could do some fishing along the way with his buddies. Frank's mother took out an ad in the Atlanta Journal that read: "I'm Frank Broyles' mother and I need a ride to the Orange Bowl," according to the Pryor Center interview

She made it to Miami before O.T.

Frank Broyles set a passing record of 304 yards at the Orange Bowl as Tulsa beat Georgia Tech 26-12, but it was a momentous trip for another reason. Broyles proposed to his high school sweetheart Barbara Day while they were overlooking Miami Bay on a moonlit night. She said yes.

WAR STORIES

O.T. always said his son Frank was the luckiest person who ever lived.

Frank was inclined to agree.

On Dec. 23, 1942, Frank Broyles enlisted in the Navy Reserve, hoping he would be able to finish college and get an officer's rank before being called to serve in World War II. The Navy let Broyles stay at Georgia Tech for another five semesters.

Then, on March 20, 1945, Broyles was sent to Providence, R.I., to begin officer training at a Navy Reserve midshipman's school.

He was commissioned in the Navy on May 5, 1945, the day before he was scheduled to be married.

Broyles left Rhode Island in a frantic hurry to get to Georgia in time for his wedding. Through a strange combination of trains, planes and limousines, he arrived in Atlanta at 9 a.m. on his wedding day.

The day after the wedding, Frank and Barbara Broyles were on a train heading back to Rhode Island, where Frank was to resume training.

"When we stopped in New York, we realized a big celebration had broken out," Broyles wrote in his book. "Germany had offered to surrender."

It was VE Day.

After a couple of months' training in Rhode Island, Broyles was sent to San Francisco to prepare for the invasion of Tokyo. Two days after arriving in San Francisco, Broyles was on a plane to Hawaii.

"While we were in San Francisco, we heard about the first atomic bomb being dropped on Hiroshima," Broyles wrote in his book. "We flew to Hawaii, checked into the barracks at Pearl Harbor, and the next thing you know, a wild celebration broke out. This was Aug. 14, 1945, and the Japanese had agreed to surrender."

It was VJ Day.

After a brief stint in Okinawa, Broyles returned to Pearl Harbor where he reported to the officer in charge, who happened to be a former Georgia Tech track coach, George Griffin.

Griffin told Broyles that he needed to get back to Georgia Tech for spring training, so Broyles was sent home.

ON TO ARKANSAS

Frank Broyles graduated from Georgia Tech in 1947 with a degree in industrial management.

That same year, he signed to play football with the Chicago Bears but instead took a job as a backfield coach at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

In 1950, he worked at the University of Florida for one season, then took a job at Georgia Tech as offensive coordinator. Broyles became head coach at the University of Missouri in 1957, but after one season he left in December of that year to coach the Razorbacks.

Broyles was particularly taken with Arkansas because the Razorbacks didn't have a strong in-state football rivalry like the one in Georgia between the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech.

"I wanted to be at Arkansas," Broyles said in 2007. "I liked Missouri, but Arkansas was my love."

Frank and Barbara Broyles had two sons while in Waco -- Jack and Hank -- and two sons in Atlanta -- Dan and Tom.

Barbara Broyles didn't talk football to Frank when he came home after work. Mostly she talked about their children, but never about anything they had done wrong, Frank Broyles said in 2007.

He didn't want to talk too much about football that first year at Arkansas. The Razorbacks lost their first six games of the 1958 season.

Gov. Orval Faubus came into the locker room after Rice beat the Hogs 24-0 in the fourth game of the 1958.

"He came in our dressing room, congratulated me and said, 'I can see great things,' you know and all," Broyles recalled in 2007. "And when he left I said, 'Boy, he doesn't know a thing about football.'"

After the fifth loss that year, "I called my dad and told him to save me a job in the insurance company," Broyles told the Pryor Center.

But then the Razorbacks won two games, and on Nov. 9, 1958, Frank and Barbara Broyles had twin girls -- Betsy and Linda.

Frank Broyles fainted when he got the news. They weren't expecting twins.

But the girls appear to have brought him good luck. The Razorbacks won the remaining two games of the 1958 season and Southwest Conference championships the next three years in a row.

DECADE OF SUCCESS

Broyles said the Razorbacks came within minutes of winning the national football championship four times in an eight-year period -- 1962, 1964, 1965 and 1969.

The Hogs shared the championship with Alabama in 1964. The Crimson Tide were named the national champion by The Associated Press and the Coaches Poll, but they lost to Texas in the Orange Bowl and the Football Writers Association of America chose the undefeated Razorbacks as its national champion.

Before the 1964 season, end-zone stands mysteriously appeared in War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.

Broyles asked Athletic Director John Barnhill who paid for the end-zone seats.

"He said, 'Don't ask.'"

Years later, Broyles discovered it was Gov. Faubus, who transferred $500,000 from his fund for the end-zone work.

"Wasn't any Freedom of Information in those days ... where the press would find out," Broyles told the Pryor Center. "Nobody asked. The seats just went up, they were paid for ... I found out about it 17, 18 years later."

On a cold day in Fayetteville in 1969, No. 1 Texas played No. 2 Arkansas in the last scheduled game of the season. It was billed as the "Game of the Century" and was more commonly known as "the Big Shootout."

Arkansas put in AstroTurf for the game. President Richard Nixon helicoptered in, landing on the practice field. He sat in the stands at Razorback Stadium with Arkansas dignitaries and future president George H.W. Bush.

A national television audience watched as Billy Graham delivered the pregame prayer.

The Razorbacks led 14-0 at halftime but ended up losing the game to the Longhorns, 15-14.

Nixon was in the Hogs' dressing room ready to present them with the national championship plaque when Texas won the game with an extra-point kick with 3:58 left in the fourth quarter.

"He was in our dressing room to give it to us and had to run over to the Texas dressing room," Broyles said in 2007.

ATHLETIC DIRECTOR

In 1973, Broyles became UA athletic director, replacing George Cole.

During Broyles' tenure as athletic director, Arkansas won 43 national titles, 57 Southwest Conference titles, and 48 Southeastern Conference titles, and the football team went to 23 bowl games.

Broyles worked to build and renovate athletic venues including Bud Walton Arena, Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Baum Stadium at George Cole Field, John McDonnell Field and the Mary B. and Fred W. Smith Razorback Golf Center.

Broyles was the driving force behind the University of Arkansas moving to the Southeastern Conference in 1991.

"The move set the stage for the program's growth and future success while dramatically changing the landscape of intercollegiate athletics," according to an obituary posted on arkansasrazorbacks.com.

The shift to the Southeastern Conference made a significant difference in television royalties for Arkansas, said Roy Kramer, who was the SEC commissioner from 1989 to 2002.

Kramer said the move made sense for Arkansas, which had nationally competitive basketball teams in the early 1990s.

"They were competitive across the board from the day they joined," Kramer said. "I think it certainly raised the bar so to speak of competitive opportunities for Arkansas."

The Southwest Conference dissolved in 1996.

In the 2007 interview, Broyles said he wanted to retire from coaching at age 50 and become a competitive bridge player, but that didn't happen.

When he retired from coaching in 1976, at age 51, Broyles became a color commentator for ABC Sports. He held that job for nine years while also serving as athletic director until the end of 2007.

Donita Ritchie went to work for Broyles in 1979 and was his was assistant for 35 years. She said he kept a notebook full of adjectives, adverbs and descriptive words to keep his ABC commentary fresh.

"His favorite term was 'There's no substitute for good preparation,' and he lived that," Ritchie said. "That was kind of my introduction to Coach Broyles. I was going to work for this man that I would see every Sunday on television."

Ritchie said Broyles never raised his voice to her. (Some assistant coaches told her they had a different experience.) Ritchie said Broyles was such a Southern gentleman that he wouldn't ride with her in a car if it was just the two of them. He thought it would be improper.

Broyles said his hire that made the biggest change was Eddie Sutton as head basketball coach in 1974. Broyles agreed to expand Barnhill Arena from 5,000 to 8,500 seats so the team could be competitive in the Southwest Conference.

"Eddie Sutton started the basketball program," Broyles said. "He won 80 percent of his games, got to the Final Four."

But it was Nolan Richardson, who was hired in 1985, who took the basketball program to the next level, Broyles said in 2007. The Razorbacks won more games than any other team in college basketball for several years in the early 1990s, Broyles said, and the Razorbacks won the national championship in 1994.

Broyles said the team's success under Richardson required a new, larger arena, so the 19,200-seat Bud Walton Arena was built with financial assistance from Walton. It opened in 1992.

"I guarantee you I stood up half of every game, 'cause if I wanted to see I had to stand up," Broyles told the Pryor Center.

Richardson was fired late in the 2001-02 season and later sued the university and several administrators -- including Broyles -- in federal court in Little Rock for racial discrimination. The lawsuit was dismissed in 2004.

Broyles had integrated the football team at Missouri in 1957 but said he wasn't allowed to recruit black athletes at Arkansas until over a decade later.

"I didn't have any complaint whatsoever when we integrated the program," Broyles told the Pryor Center. "The people of Arkansas knew it was the right thing. I think the state was ready for it, accepted it and moved forward. I thought it was smooth."

Broyles also hired John McDonnell to be head track coach in 1978. McDonnell had been an assistant coach for the Razorback track team since 1972.

McDonnell's teams won 40 national championships before his retirement in 2008.

McDonnell, who is from Ireland, said Broyles initially had trouble understanding his accent.

"'I'd go to talk to him the first year or so and he'd say, 'Slow down, slow down, I can't understand you,'" McDonnell recalled.

The track coach said Broyles got to where he could understand him -- most of the time.

"When I wanted more money, he didn't understand me," McDonnell said.

After Broyles' retirement from coaching, he found time for other interests.

In 1982, Broyles appeared in the TV miniseries The Blue and The Gray. Broyles played the doctor who pronounced President Abraham Lincoln (played by Gregory Peck) dead after being shot at Ford's Theater, leaning over Gregory Peck and saying: "The wound is mortal. All we can do is wait."

ARKANSAS ICON

Houston Nutt was the last player signed by Broyles and the last head football coach Broyles hired. Nutt was head coach of the Razorbacks from 1998 to 2007.

Nutt, who grew up in Little Rock, remembers Broyles' statewide stature from the 1960s.

"Coach Broyles was such an icon when I was growing up that my dad would take us boys to War Memorial Stadium early before games just so we could see Coach Broyles get off the bus," he said.

Nutt said he was nervous the night before Arkansas and Texas were to play in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 1, 2000. The phone rang in his Dallas hotel room at 10:30 p.m. It was Broyles. Nutt figured it must be bad news -- a player in trouble or something.

Then he heard that Georgia drawl.

"Hey Houston, I know you're uptight and you're anxious about this game because of all the history in the Arkansas vs. Texas rivalry," Broyles told him. "But I just want you to know, tomorrow I want you to enjoy this game."

Nutt said that took an enormous amount of pressure off of him, and it showed the next day as the Razorbacks beat the Longhorns 27-6.

U.S. Sen. John Boozman, a Republican from Rogers, was an offensive tackle for the Razorbacks from 1969 to 1973.

"Outside of family, the people who had the greatest influences on my life were my coaches and teachers -- perhaps none more so than Frank Broyles," Boozman said. "Coach Broyles was larger than life, always doing what he thought was best for the University of Arkansas. ... Coach Broyles was fond of saying there are two types of people in this world: givers and takers. Live your life as a giver, not a taker. We lost a giver today, but we are so much better for what he gave us."

Former Gov. Mike Beebe remembers riding in a golf cart with Frank Broyles in 2011 when Beebe got a phone call from U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat who is a former West Virginia governor.

"He called and wanted to know if I knew Frank Broyles very well," Beebe recalled. "I said, 'I'm playing golf with him and we're riding in a golf cart. I'm driving.'"

Manchin wanted West Virginia to be allowed into the Southeastern Conference when it expanded, so he asked Beebe to put in a good word for his home state.

"I mentioned it to Coach," Beebe said, "and Coach said, 'Uh, we're going to take Missouri.'"

Broyles didn't really have a say in the decision but had been an advocate for Missouri joining the conference.

CHURCH

For 60 years, Frank Broyles was a fixture on Sundays in the sanctuary of Central United Methodist Church in Fayetteville.

Even when the Razorbacks played away games, Broyles often made it back to Fayetteville for the last late Sunday morning church service, even when he had to be back in Little Rock on Sunday afternoons.

"He sat in the same seat every Sunday," said Senior Pastor Jan Davis. "Six rows back on the west side."

But in June, Broyles stopped coming to church. Word rippled through the congregation that an era was coming to an end.

"People noticed as soon as he wasn't there and started asking about him," Davis said.

Soon afterwards, Broyles' name was listed in the Sunday worship bulletin among those "in need of prayer."

Broyles was no longer able to go to church, but he was watching the service online, said the Rev. Jack Wilson, pastor emeritus.

Wilson said Broyles was much more than a bench warmer on that pew. He was a coach on spiritual matters as well. When young ministers were having problems, Broyles was there to offer guidance.

"I would lean on him for advice and wisdom and guidance at critical times in the life of the church," Wilson said. "Frank Broyles was as committed as anyone I've ever known to the heartbeat and life of the church and wanted to support it in any way possible."

Wilson said everything about Broyles' life was faith-centered.

"Faith was a woven thread throughout his whole life," Wilson said. "Not only was it inside him, but he practiced it in his daily life."

BROYLES FOUNDATION

The Frank and Barbara Broyles Foundation was started in 2006 to train caregivers and family members who care for patients with dementia, including Alzheimer's disease. The objective is to improve the quality of life for those suffering and for their caregivers, said Molly Arnold, chief operating officer of the foundation and Broyles' granddaughter.

"When we were caring for my grandmother, we realized there was no help available for the caregiver," she said. "There was only information on the disease itself. It became important to my grandpa that other families didn't have to go through that trial and error experience."

The Broyles family has written Coach Broyles' Playbook for Alzheimer's Caregivers and a tips and strategies guide. The Broyles Foundation has distributed more than 1 million copies, and it has been published in 11 languages.

"He was an Arkansas treasure who devoted his life to others -- from student-athletes to his support of Alzheimer's research," Gov. Asa Hutchinson said. "He was an example for young people to follow, and that alone reflects a life well lived."

A Section on 08/15/2017

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