Frank Broyles: When an entire state stops

Published: Tuesday, August 15, 2017
Frank Broyles speaks during a meeting of the UA Board of Trustees in February 2007.
Photo by File Photo
Frank Broyles speaks during a meeting of the UA Board of Trustees in February 2007.

They say the Beatles came along at just the right time. Elvis had been taken off the market by the U.S. Army, and when The King returned, he was talked into doing those (mostly) bad movies. The public had just found out that Jerry Lee Lewis had secretly married his 13-year-old cousin, and even Dick Clark dropped him from his guest list. Enter four lads from Liverpool who were more than willing to fill the void. They went big-time, fast.

Frank Broyles came along at just the right time, too. In 1957, especially at the end of 1957, Arkansas needed something to be proud of. It had been an embarrassing year for the state. Orval Faubus was still in office, pictures of Central High were still running in papers around the world, and schools in Little Rock would be closed for many more months. It might not have been the genesis of our inferiority complex, but 1957 didn't help.

Enter Frank Broyles. Who filled the void. Thank heavens.

If you've lived in Arkansas for any length of time, you might have your own, personal Frank Broyles story. We remember him coming to the newspaper offices in downtown Little Rock one day, and having a brief chat with him. And our thought--our only thought, we couldn't get it out of our heads: now that's a legit Georgia accent!

As any coach and athletic director will do, Frank Broyles had his ups and downs in his long career at the University of Arkansas. But, even with his fights with coaches and his differences with some media types, he never seemed able to fake it. (He would have made a horrible politician.) He called 'em like he see'd them, and if his call was that you weren't doing the job, you needed to update your résumé.

Hard to believe, but he only coached one year at Missouri before a man named John Barnhill gave a young Frank Broyles a shot at coaching the Razorbacks. The rest is not history--history is used too often to describe all things sports. Call the rest an Arkansas legend that won't be matched anytime soon. Does anybody really think there will ever be another coach that'll stay in one place for nearly 60 years? Anywhere? The times of Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Frank Broyles are long gone.

The kids--and some of their parents--might not know it, but Frank Broyles was an outstanding athlete before he went into coaching. He was drafted out of Georgia Tech in three different sports. (Bo Jackson who?) But he made his mark as a football coach, winning a national championship, seven Southwest Conference championships and generally putting UofA athletics on the collegiate map. Oh, and there was this game they called The Big Shootout. Did we mention he guided the state's flagship university into the SEC? And he lent his name to one of the more prestigious awards in sports today, certainly one of the more important. What's the fastest way to a head coaching job other than through the Broyles Award for assistant coaches? There may be too many Pinnacle Moments in this man's career to address here. We only have so much space.

Frank Broyles suffered from Alzheimer's, as too many do. (What a damnable disease.) It was a disease he knew something about, having spent countless hours raising awareness of the sickness while his first wife, Barbara, suffered from it. Frank Broyles' battle came to an end Monday, at the age of 92. Condolences started pouring in from around the world in the afternoon.

If you're looking for a statue of the man, that's easy enough to find on campus. But if you're looking for his monument, look around at the dozens of men today--nay, dozens of hundreds--that Frank Broyles guided into manhood.

That's a legacy worth having. Any coach will tell you.

Editorial on 08/15/2017


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