I don't know if a last name is more synonymous with Arkansas athletics than Broyles. With J. Frank Broyles passing earlier today from complications from Alzheimer's, an institution is without one of its institutions.
I've been aware of Frank since I was a young boy, when I grew up going to elementary school with his grandchildren, and even graduated high school with a few of them and am lucky enough to call a few friends.
I had the pleasure of meeting him a number of times, and it was always a pleasant experience. His legacy will live on long after I and generations to come have passed. No one will ever take his name off the field at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium, which was essentially built by the foundation he built with the football program from 1958-76.
The mid-1960s saw the Razorbacks win 22 straight games at one point. There's a really cool DVD you can purchase that chronicles that period if you're so inclined. Broyles' ability to hire good coaches and let them do their jobs is why the team won 144 games during his tenure here, including a national championship and 7 SWC titles.
There's not a Broyles Award for nothing.
Following that, his tenure as athletic director from 1973-2007 saw him transform the program in ways unimaginable at the time. He hired Lou Holtz and Ken Hatfield, the former winning 11 games and a Orange Bowl over former pupil and assistant Barry Switzer's Oklahoma team and the latter still holds the record for highest winning percentage in school history.
In basketball, he hired two Hall of Famers in Eddie Sutton and Nolan Richardson, the latter winning a national championship in basketball.
John McDonnell. Norm DeBriyn. Dave Van Horn. Broyles knew how to find winners.
One of the knocks on Broyles was that he was a meddler. That he ran off coaches because he was unwilling to give them complete rein of their programs because he wanted to be too involved. Maybe so. But at the end of the day, he wanted what was best for the University of Arkansas. Sometimes he may have let his pride or ego get in the way. Who hasn't, though, in major collegiate athletics?
Another knock on him was his stance on racial issues. Many people had a problem with his tardiness on desegregating the Razorback football team, and his treatment of players once it was done. He certainly could have done a better job in that regard, and while I can't speak for him, I would presume it was something that may have been one of his biggest regrets.
He did hire Nolan Richardson as one of the first black coaches of a major sport in the old Southwest Conference. That took guts, and although he and Nolan may have never saw eye to eye, the basketball program went to new heights because of that decision. Bud Walton Arena was built, and yes, Richardson's name should adorn the court when it's all said and done.
The money he raised and the smiles he shared with all he came into contact with will be his lasting legacy. He was a wonderful husband to Barbara before she passed and then Gen, and a marvelous father and grandfather. He was the man that an entire state could look at and be proud of. His statue will serve as a constant reminder of the impact he made at the University of Arkansas and the state as a whole.
Rest in peace, Frank.