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Arkansas Was Program That Mattered with Frank Broyles at Helm


frank broyles with kieth jackson

But Broyles’ first two decades seemed blessed, with the exception of a couple of personality squabbles with coaches, and it continued right through Broyles’ guiding Arkansas away from being the only non-Texas school in the Southwest Conference and into the Southeastern Conference, where Broyles himself had been a star athlete for then-league member Georgia Tech in the 1940s.

Let’s start with the beginning in looking at Broyles’ career as athletic director.

Broyles, then head football coach for the Hogs and just 48, took over for George Cole as AD in 1973, though it’s hard to believe anyone but Frank wasn’t calling the shots after his boss, John Barnhill, became too ill and stepped down in the late 1960s. And really, at that time, football was all that mattered at Arkansas in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Broyles combined the AD and coach roles for three years — he was in the throes of rebuilding Arkansas football to national prominence during his last five seasons as head coach, and blending both positions had to be grueling. Broyles, having noted the rise in popularity of college basketball thanks to TV, had also decided that Razorback basketball needed to be on a prominent level and hired Eddie Sutton from Creighton to guide that effort.

Broyles’ judgment of people was brilliant at this time. How else could a former shop teacher from Greenland be handed the cross country program, and then the entire track and field program, the way Broyles turned it over to John McDonnell, and then Arkansas become a powerhouse in the sport? McDonnell was to track and field as Indiana’s incomparable John Councilman was to NCAA swimming, eventually winning 42 national championships.

By 1983, he was the No. 1 analyst alongside folksy play-by-play man Keith Jackson, and they made a perfect pairing. Broyles, as he had done as head football coach, acted as the CEO athletic director and hired all the right people to make the Arkansas machine run like clockwork, while he could be away on game days appearing on TV. No one minded; Broyles had always had a way with the TV people dating back to his coaching days, and in 1969 his relationship with ABC’s Roone Arledge led to a first-time-ever three TV appearances for both Arkansas and Texas in one season, including the Dec. 6 “Big Shootout” in Fayetteville.

As difficult as it might be for SEC and Arkansas fans to imagine, being 30-40 years removed from it, Arkansas was a program that mattered nationally during Broyles’ tenure both as coach and as the AD in the broadcast booth for ABC. …

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Jim Harris is the former editor of ArkansasSports360. He has covered Arkansas sports for decades at papers including the Pine Bluff Commercial and the Arkansas Gazette. He a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and the United States Basketball Writers Association (USBWA). Jim is also in search of the best gumbo.

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