The death of Frank Broyles on Monday at age 92 closes the chapter on one of the great success stories of the modern age of college football. Broyles spent 50 years at the University of Arkansas, shepherding the Razorbacks, first as head football coach (1958-76) and then as athletic director (1974-2007), from the middle of the pack in the Southwest Conference to a vibrant member of the Southeastern Conference.
Broyles is so identified with Arkansas, where he went 144-58-5 in 19 seasons, that few people remember that he played for Bobby Dodd at Georgia Tech and served as head coach of Missouri for one season, in 1957, when he replaced the legendary Don Faurot. Perhaps Broyles didn't like coaching in the shadow of Faurot, who remained as athletic director, a problem one after another of Broyles' successors encountered in Fayetteville.
Broyles began his career as a boy wonder -- Dodd named him offensive coordinator of Georgia Tech when Broyles was 26, and he became a head coach at age 32 -- and he ended it as a white-haired lion of the game.
Broyles arrived at Arkansas one year after Darrell Royal got to Texas and just as Bear Bryant left Texas A&M for Alabama. The Bear left a vacancy atop the SWC, and Broyles and Royal spent the next two decades battling to occupy it. The Longhorns won or shared 11 SWC titles and three national championships under Royal, and the Razorbacks won seven and shared one under Broyles.
Oklahoma has been the biggest rival on the Texas schedule since dinosaurs roamed the earth. But the Texas-Arkansas rivalry from the late 1950s to the mid-1970s crackled with the edgy energy of competitive success. Royal beat Broyles in 14 of 19 seasons, but in games decided by six points or fewer, Texas had only a 5-4 edge.
The most famous of these games were decided by a single point. In 1964, undefeated Arkansas gave Texas its only loss of the season 14-13, thanks to an 81-yard punt return by future Razorback coach Ken Hatfield. The Hogs won a share of the national championship that season. Five years later, in a season-ending battle of unbeatens, the Longhorns returned the favor.
With President Richard M. Nixon and future president George H.W. Bush in the stands in cold, dank Fayetteville, No. 1 Texas defeated No. 2 Arkansas 15-14, thanks to a late-game, fourth-down, 44-yard pass from James Street to tight end Randy Peschel, who was wearing two Razorback defenders.
Broyles and Royal retired at the end of the 1976 season. Through their careers and into retirement, Royal and Broyles remained close friends, confidants and golfing buddies. But they didn't discuss the 1969 game. Some topics are too raw.
Broyles kept his duties as athletic director, which he had taken over in 1974, and stayed in the job for 33 years. He shepherded Arkansas into the Southeastern Conference in 1992, a move that hastened the demise of the SWC -- it lasted three more years -- and catapulted the Razorbacks' athletic program into financial health and competitive stability. Broyles raised money for and oversaw construction of $230 million worth of new facilities. During his tenure, Arkansas won 30 NCAA championships after it moved to the SEC. All but one came in cross-country or track and field; the other was the 1994 NCAA men's basketball title under head coach Nolan Richardson.
Broyles made Richardson the first African-American head coach in the SWC in 1985 and reveled in Richardson's success with his uptempo brand of hoops known as 40 Minutes of Hell. But Richardson, equally brash off the court, became increasingly unhappy at Arkansas. In 2002, he challenged Broyles to fire him, famously saying, "If they go ahead and pay me my money, they can take this job tomorrow."
Richardson lasted longer than any other football coach Broyles ever hired. Through 25 seasons of SEC football, Arkansas has yet to win a league championship. The Hogs have reached the SEC championship game three times, losing by 31 (1995), 27 (2002) and 10 (2006) points.
Broyles physically left the sideline in 1976. But mentally, he never really took leave, and his meddling took a toll on his coaches. Lou Holtz left Arkansas for Minnesota -- not a lateral move -- in 1984. Hatfield, the local hero, fled his alma mater for Clemson in 1990. Broyles fired Jack Crowe after the first game of the 1992 season, a 10-3 loss to The Citadel. Houston Nutt won the SEC West in 2006 and, one season later, left for Ole Miss days after upsetting No. 1 LSU 50-48.
While serving as athletic director, Broyles also worked as a color analyst with Keith Jackson on ABC Sports' telecasts of college football. His folksy speech and high-pitched drawl made him a beloved figure in the game. "Keeeethh," Broyles would draw out, his voice rising as he described a defensive lapse, "where is the safety man?"
Broyles parlayed his success in coaching into becoming the baron of the state of Arkansas. His wealthy boosters became close friends. They made Broyles a member at Augusta National Golf Club, where his duties during the Masters included manning the front desk of the media tent.
The legacy of Frank Broyles is in the Broyles Award, given to the top assistant coach in college football. It is in the memories of those great battles with Texas in the 1960s. Most of all, it is in what Arkansas athletics has become: a campus with state-of-the-art facilities and a prominent seat at the SEC table. They don't make careers like that anymore.