Frank Broyles, Arkansas icon, dies at 92

Posted: August 14, 2017 at 1:25 p.m.

Former Arkansas athletic director and football coach Frank Broyles (center).

— Frank Broyles, who coached Arkansas to its only football national championship and later served as the Razorbacks’ athletics director for years, has died. He was 92.

Broyles died Monday at a family home in Fayetteville. He had suffered from Alzheimer's, the neurological disease about which he spent countless hours raising awareness and from which his first wife, Barbara, died in 2004.

A memorial open to the public will begin Saturday at 2 p.m. inside Bud Walton Arena.

Broyles devoted most of his adult life to the Razorbacks. After coaching one season as head coach at Missouri, he was hired by then-athletics director John Barnhill to lead Arkansas in December 1957 and spent the next 57 years working for the Razorbacks in some capacity until his full-time retirement as a fundraiser in 2014.

He retired as Arkansas’ athletics director in December 2007 but remained employed as a fundraiser for the Razorback Foundation — the athletics department’s private fundraising arm — for nearly seven more years.

The office building for the athletics department and the field at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium have been named for Broyles, and a statue of him is located on the university campus. Broyles was inducted into numerous halls of fame, including the College Football Hall of Fame and Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame. In 1999, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette named Broyles the state's most influential sports figure of the 20th century.

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Broyles was born the day after Christmas in 1924 in Decatur, Ga. He was a standout quarterback for Hall of Fame coach Bobby Dodd at Georgia Tech, where he was named Southeastern Conference player of the year in 1944 as a record-setting quarterback.

Broyles played football, basketball and baseball at Georgia Tech. He was drafted in all three sports - including by the Chicago Bears and New York Yankees - but decided to pursue a career in coaching after a short stint in the U.S. Navy at the end of World War II.

Before becoming head coach at Missouri, Broyles spent time as an assistant coach at Baylor, Florida and Georgia Tech. He often said it was during a trip to Fayetteville while an assistant coach at Baylor that he became interested in the Razorbacks' program and hoped to obtain the Arkansas head coaching job one day.

Broyles was considered one of college football’s giants during an era that included Bear Bryant at Alabama, Darrell Royal at Texas and Ara Parseghian at Notre Dame. Broyles compiled a record of 144-58-5 and led the Razorbacks to 10 bowl games in 19 seasons. Many credit the success of his teams in changing the perception of Arkansas — both inside and outside the state — after the Little Rock Central High School desegregation crisis of 1957.

Arkansas won seven Southwest Conference championships under Broyles and was named national champion by the Football Writers Association of America after an undefeated season in 1964, which ended with five consecutive shutouts to end the regular season and a 10-7 win over Nebraska in the Cotton Bowl.

The Razorbacks were the only team to go 11-0 that season, but Alabama, which was undefeated before a loss to Texas in the Orange Bowl, was named the Associated Press national champion before the bowl game.

In 1965, the AP waited until after the bowls to name a national champion for the first time.

The Razorbacks were undefeated again in the 1965 regular season and ran their win streak to 22 straight - a streak that began the day following President John F. Kennedy's assassination in November 1963 and which was tied for the longest college football win streak of the 1960s.

Arkansas missed on a potential second national championship when it was upset 14-7 by LSU in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 1, 1966.

Broyles had Arkansas on the cusp of another national championship in 1969 when the Razorbacks hosted Texas to end the regular season for a game that became known as "The Big Shootout."

ABC executives urged Arkansas to move the game from October to the first Saturday in December — a day that no other college football games were to be played. Both teams went undefeated leading up to the game, and when they finally met, the Longhorns were ranked No. 1, and the Razorbacks were No. 2.

President Richard Nixon attended the game, as did future president George H.W. Bush and noted evangelist Billy Graham. After trailing by 14 points, the Longhorns scored a touchdown in the closing minutes and beat Arkansas 15-14, and Nixon proclaimed Texas the national championship during a postgame presentation in the locker room.

Broyles called it the most painful loss of his coaching career and rarely spoke about the game. He said he never watched the game film.

Broyles continued to coach the Razorbacks for most of the 1970s, winning his last conference championship in 1975. He added the title of athletics director in 1973, succeeding George Cole.

After finishing with a 5-5-1 record in 1976, Broyles retired from coaching. The Razorbacks lost Broyles’ final four games by an average of 16 points.

Broyles hired Lou Holtz as his successor, beginning a long line of notable hires from his AD position. Among them were Eddie Sutton and Nolan Richardson to coach basketball; Norm DeBriyn and Dave Van Horn to coach baseball; and John McDonnell to coach track & field.

To date, the coaches he hired have won a combined 41 national championships and 106 conference championships during their time at Arkansas, making the Razorbacks one of the most well-known all-sport programs in the NCAA.

Frank Broyles has died at the age of 92

(By Blake Sutton )
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Making successful hires began during Broyles' time as head coach. He hired some of football’s most famous coaches as assistants, including Jimmy Johnson, Barry Switzer, Joe Gibbs, Johnny Majors and Hayden Fry, who combined to win six Super Bowls in the NFL, as well as four national championships and 20 conference championships in college football.

In 1996, the Broyles Award was established and has been presented annually to college football’s most outstanding assistant coach ever since. The Broyles Award trophy is a sculpture of Broyles and his longtime Arkansas assistant Wilson Matthews.

While he was athletics director, Broyles served nine years as the lead college football analyst for ABC. Working alongside Keith Jackson, Broyles was on-site of several of the most memorable college football games from 1977-85 but recused himself from ABC broadcasts involving the Razorbacks.

In 1990, Broyles made perhaps his most critical decision as AD, urging the university's board of trustees to sever the Razorbacks’ 76-year partnership with the Southwest Conference and accept membership in the Southeastern Conference. The move turned out to be a stroke of genius. After years of scandal and declining attendance, the SWC folded four years after the Razorbacks played their final game in the league, while the SEC has established itself as arguably the most recognizable conference in college athletics.

Arkansas has enjoyed unprecedented financial success since its move to the SEC, which paved the way for a surge in facility upgrades overseen by Broyles. Between 1993 and 2001, the Razorbacks built state-of-the-art facilities Bud Walton Arena and Baum Stadium for basketball and baseball and expanded the football stadium's capacity by 21,000 seats.

Arkansas’ athletics budget was $9 million per year when it moved to the SEC and surged to more than $49 million by Broyles’ retirement 16 years later. It has more than doubled in the decade since.

Although the Razorbacks were one of the only programs not found to break NCAA rules during the scandal-ridden days of the Southwest Conference, three Arkansas programs were found to have violated NCAA rules during the final decade of Broyles' tenure, resulting in recruiting sanctions for football and basketball and the abdication of two national championships in track & field. But the Razorbacks were not handed the NCAA's most serious charge: lack of institutional control.

In the most high-profile case, a combined 20 Arkansas football and basketball players were found to have been overcompensated by about $4,300 while working summer jobs for a Dallas trucking firm owned by booster Ted Harrod between 1994-1999. The Razorbacks were found to have committed major NCAA violations concerning recruiting, financial aid, employment, extra benefits and failure to monitor. In April 2003, the NCAA Committee on Infractions found no evidence that Broyles was aware of the overpayments.

Richardson, the longtime Arkansas basketball coach who won the national championship in 1994 and finished runner-up the next season, claimed his 2002 firing by Broyles was racially motivated and sued the University of Arkansas in U.S. District Court. The suit was dismissed in 2004.

In 2004, Broyles’ wife, Barbara, died after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Frank and Barbara Broyles were high school sweethearts and married in 1945. They had six children, 17 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

In 2005, he remarried Gen Whitehead, who survives him along with seven stepchildren and 13 step-grandchildren.

Frank Broyles spent the final years of his life raising awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s research, and he authored a pamphlet, “Coach Broyles’ Playbook for Alzheimer’s Caregivers,” that has been distributed to more than 1 million people in 11 languages. The Frank & Barbara Broyles Foundation was established in 2006 to serve Alzheimer's caregivers and raise funds for research.

With notable former players such as Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in attendance, Broyles announced his retirement as athletics director at a meeting of the UA Board of Trustees in February 2007. His final day on the job was Dec. 31, 2007, marking 50 years as coach or athletics director.

Less than two months after announcing his retirement, Broyles fired basketball coach Stan Heath after the Razorbacks made consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament. Broyles hired Dana Altman to replace Heath, but Altman resigned the following day, prompting the university to hire an outside search firm for the first time during Broyles' tenure as AD. Broyles' final hire was basketball coach John Pelphrey.

The month before his retirement, the field at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium was named for Broyles during a game against South Carolina. A statue of Broyles was placed on the steps of the Broyles Athletic Center before a game against LSU in 2012 and has since been relocated to the south entrance of the stadium.

The Broyles Athletic Center, which housed Broyles' office and other administrative offices after its construction in the 1970s, was torn down last November as part of a $160 million renovation to Arkansas' football stadium. It is scheduled to be rebuilt by August 2018.