FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Frank Broyles is seemingly everywhere at Arkansas, and not just because his name surrounds the field inside Razorback Stadium or because of his statue outside the athletic complex that bears his name.
It is because, even at 89, the school’s most successful football coach and unquestioned patriarch of athletics still comes into the office every day.
Broyles’ legendary career at Arkansas, one that spans 56 years in various roles, will come to a close at the end of this month.
The former athletic director has worked for the school’s fundraising arm, the Razorback Foundation, since his first retirement at the end of 2007, but he’s about to transition into a similar role for what his daughter, Betsy Arnold, calls his “second legacy” — helping those who care for loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease.
While his pace has slowed somewhat over the years, though Arnold said “he’s healthy as a horse.” Broyles has remained a fixture at Arkansas football and basketball games — as well as remaining hard at work promoting the university and state he adopted as his own when he first arrived before the 1958 football season.
“For the past 56 years, I have had the privilege of working in the only job I ever wanted — to be the head football coach and then the athletic director of the Razorbacks,” Broyles said. “The Razorbacks have always been my passion.”
The Georgia native will be honored at a banquet this weekend, featuring speakers and video presentations from some of the most well-known names in football. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, former coaches Johnny Majors, Lou Holtz, Ken Hatfield and Houston Nutt, and former ABC colleague Keith Jackson are among the many who will pay tribute. They represent a fraction of those influenced by Broyles in his lifetime, a remarkable tale of achievement.
“He’s a life teacher,” Jones told The Associated Press. “He always spoke about football as it related to life … All things pointed to life’s lessons.”
Broyles has excelled in nearly every role he’s taken on, accomplishments that have come as an athlete, coach, commentator, administrator and caregiver.
His most recent success has come since the 2004 death of his wife, Barbara, from complications with Alzheimer’s. Afterward, Broyles started the Frank and Barbara Broyles Foundation CareGivers United, an Alzheimer’s education organization that Arnold heads today as its president.
Broyles wrote a book on the subject, full of football parallels such as remaining positive in difficult times, as well as tips and strategies to caring for Alzheimer’s patients. Arnold said 800,000 copies of her father’s book have been published, in 11 languages, and Saturday’s banquet will help raise money for the foundation — where Broyles plans to continue working after his retirement from the university.
“In 50 years, people are going to look back and that’s what they are going to remember him for, his second legacy,” Arnold said.
Broyles primary legacy, of course, is forever a part of Arkansas athletics.
His record of 144-58-5 in 19 seasons from 1958-76 is easily the winningest in school history, and he delivered the only national championship in 1964 — with Jones and former Miami and Dallas coach Jimmy Johnson among those on the roster. Former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer was an assistant coach at the time.
Switzer was one of many former Broyles assistants who went on to coaching success across the country, a group that included Johnson, Majors, former Iowa coach Hayden Fry and former Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs among many others. His coaching tree was so prolific that the Broyles Award, recognizing the top assistant football coach in college football annually, was established in 1996.
Switzer was entering his junior year as a player with the Razorbacks when Broyles arrived after one season at Missouri. The Arkansas native had just finished his fourth season as head coach of the Sooners when he said Broyles — who was set to focus on his athletic director duties — called and offered the job of replacing him as coach at Arkansas.
With future Heisman Trophy winner Billy Sims headlining a talent-laden roster at Oklahoma, Switzer turned down his former coach. Switzer never forgot what Broyles meant to his career.
“I wouldn’t have had a career in athletics if not for him coming to Arkansas,” Switzer told the AP. “Him coming to Arkansas in ’58 is the best thing to ever happen to me, and I think it’s the best thing to ever happen to the state of Arkansas.”
Following a tumultuous final few years as athletic director — including a racial-discrimination lawsuit by former basketball coach Nolan Richardson that was eventually dismissed and off-the-field drama involving Nutt and his relationships with a group of Springdale players and then-assistant Gus Malzahn — Broyles decided to retire at the end of 2007.
His successor, Jeff Long, arrived on campus three months before the end of Broyles’ tenure.
The current Arkansas athletic director, who grew up listening to Broyles as a college football analyst on television, admitted he was “a little cautious” at first about starting his job on campus before Broyles’ retirement. He said Broyles went out of his way to make the transition as easy as possible — a theme that continued after Long took over and Broyles moved into his current role with the Razorback Foundation.
It led to a respect Long carries with him today.
“Very few athletic programs across the country have somebody as iconic as Frank Broyles, and he is a treasure to us,” Long told the AP. “We’re very fortunate to have him, we’re blessed to have him, and I’m honored to fill the office that he held.”
Stories of Broyles reach across Arkansas and he’s fondly recalled for everything from that national title to his hole-in-one at Augusta National, where the former scratch golfer is a member.
More than anything, Broyles’ career will be remembered on Saturday for the impact he’s had on those around him.
“I don’t know that I can point to anyone that has ever lived his life and how he not only spoke to being a role model, but how he lived it,” Jones said.