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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 938

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This is the grave of Frank Broyles.

Born in 1924 in Decatur, Georgia, Broyles was a football guy with football brain. It was his whole life. He went to Georgia Tech, where he played quarterback from 1944 to 1946. He was the starting QB for the Yellow Jackets in the 1945 Orange Bowl, where he set the game’s record in passing yards though they lost and was not broken until Tom Brady in 2000. The Chicago Bears drafted him in 1947 but perhaps realizing that being a QB for the Bears was the worst possible career decision anyone could make, which has been pretty well borne out by the last 74 years, he went into coaching.

Broyles became an assistant coach at Baylor in 1947 and then followed Bob Woodruff to Florida in 1950. He then went to Georgia Tech as an assistant to Bobby Dodd. Broyles almost became head coach at Northwestern in 1954 but didn’t get the job. But in 1957, he did get the job at Missouri. He only stayed there one year–which is pretty bad in a lot of ways for a program–and then took a job at Arkansas in 1958, where he would stay the rest of his career.

Broyles remains the legend at Arkansas today, a program that has gone into the toilet since he left despite a possible revival now. He won the national title in 1964. That included defeating top-ranked Texas in one of the great games of all time and then defeated Nebraska in the Cotton Bowl. Other key wins included winning the 1969 Sugar Bowl in Georgia and then a huge win over Texas A&M in 1975 and then beat Georgia in the 1976 Cotton Bowl. Of course Broyles lost his share of huge games too–when you are playing the top teams, that is going to sometimes happen. That included the Game of the Century in 1969 when Texas came back to win 15-14.

Broyles retired from coaching in 1976 with an all-time record of 149-62-6. He had already become athletic director in 1974 and he would remain in that position all the way until 2007. Despite the fact that to me this seems like a conflict of interest, he also became ABC’s top color man on its college football coverage, working with the great Keith Jackson from 1977 to 1985. He wasn’t allowed to cover Arkansas games though. When the top game of the week was the Razorbacks, he was usually assigned with ABC’s #2 play by play man, one Al Michaels, while Ara Parseghian worked with Jackson. Broyles was also a huge golfer and from 1977 to 1985, co-hosted the Green Jacket ceremony for the winner of the Master’s. Broyles led the move of Arkansas out of the Southwest Conference and into the SEC in 1990. That has not worked out for the Razorbacks. Maybe it has financially, but they are a joke on the gridiron.

Among Broyles’ players to become head coaches include Jimmy Johnson, Barry Switzer, Johnny Majors, Hayden Fry, and Joe Gibbs. Also, Jerry Jones played for Broyles before getting rich and buying the Cowboys. So I’d say that’s an outsized impact on the game. However, Broyles was a good ol’ boy of the southern style and the 21st century was not good for him. He had hired Nolan Richardson to be Arkansas’ basketball coach and he won a title for the Razorbacks. But things went south, Richardson later sued the university, and it came out that Broyles routinely threw the N word out there when discussing Black people. I doubt anyone is surprised by this. Richardson had used the term “redneck” in discussing Arkansas fans and Broyles urged the publisher of the magazine Hawgs Illustrated to say that term was the same as the N word, which of course it is not. This was in 2004. So yeah…..

When Broyles’ wife came down with the horror of Alzheimer’s Disease, he threw himself into the fight against the disease. He self-published a pamphlet for Arkansas fans (and others) who were struggling with a loved one who had contracted the illness. The thing was translated into 11 languages. So that was a good thing. Sadly, Broyles would come down with Alzheimer’s himself and he died of it in 2017. He was 92 years old.

Frank Broyles is buried in Fairview Memorial Gardens, Fayetteville, Arkansas.

In 1983, Broyles was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. If you would like this series to visit other people who were inducted in the same class as Broyles, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Bud McFadin (OL and DL for Texas in the 50s) is in Colorado City, Texas and Jack Scarbath (QB for Maryland in the 50s) is in Calvert, Maryland. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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