February 16, 2007

Broyles' tenure coming to close

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For years, the call log on Darrell Royal's monthly phone bill has included calls to Fayetteville, Ark.

Likewise, Frank Broyles' phone bill always listed calls to Austin.

That's why Royal, the legendary former University of Texas football coach, was perplexed Friday morning.

He had heard rumors that Broyles, his longtime friend and coaching rival, was stepping down as athletic director at Arkansas and ending a 49-year career at the university.

But Royal hadn't heard from the 82-year-old Broyles. Given their deep friendship, that didn't make sense.

"I was wondering why I haven't heard from him. We've always called (each other)," Royal said Friday morning. "I remember when we were playing here the year I resigned (1976). I called Frank and told him I was resigning. He said, 'I was about to call and tell you I was, too.' "

Overhearing her husband's conversation, Edith Royal interjected: "He called last night. He's resigning today."

A distinguished career that established Broyles as a college football legend and Arkansas icon is apparently coming to a close.

A large faction of cynical Arkansas fans will say the announcement is coming a few years too late. As athletic director, Broyles engineered Arkansas' move from the Southwest Conference to the Southeastern Conference and upgraded facilities. Broyles has also been accused of meddling with his football coaches' programs, and last season he was criticized for meeting with parents who were unhappy with the roles their sons were playing for coach Houston Nutt.

Arkansans from Siloam Springs to West Memphis will debate whether Broyles should have been shown more respect or shown the door.

However, there should be no argument that Broyles deserves an honored place in college football history for his work on the Arkansas sidelines and in ABC's broadcast booth.

For a year or two eight victories will pacify the demanding fans and boosters that pump life and money into college football, but eventually they want more.

Even in the 1950s they wanted more, and Broyles provided it.

Before he was named coach at Arkansas in December 1957, the Razorbacks had never won more than eight games in a football season. In fact, they had won eight games in a season only twice in their history.

Broyles won nine games in his second year in Fayetteville. He won 11 and a national championship in his seventh year. By the time his coaching tenure ended in 1976, he had won 144 games and established himself as arguably the state's most identifiable figure of the time. If someone sculpted an Arkansas version of Mount Rushmore in the Ozarks, Broyles' face would be chiseled alongside those of Bill Clinton, Sam Walton and Douglas MacArthur.

"I think he's right up there at the top," Royal said. "He had the total package. Frank had all the fundamentals and he was an excellent teacher."

He was just as good in the broadcast booth.

Unlike some coaches who tend to fade away when they leave the sideline, Broyles' profile was actually raised when he left. He worked alongside Chris Schenkle and Keith Jackson as an expert analyst on ABC's game of the week for nine seasons. During that span his southern drawl became almost as synonymous with college football as Jackson's trademark "Whoa Nellie."

"He did (expert analysis) really well," Royal said. "That's not an easy thing to do. I tried it two or three games and I wasn't good at all. He knew when to talk and the opportune time to make a point. I enjoyed his analysis of a football game. Frank understood football start to finish."

Even those who might have felt Broyles' retirement is overdue should consider all he did in 49 years and acknowledge what a brilliant career Broyles had.

Start to finish.

For more on Arkansas athletics, visit HawgSports.com.



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