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Arkansas Legend Frank Broyles Passes at Age 92

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Broyles — fierce opponent and great friend to Darrell Royal served Arkansas as coach and athletics director for over 50 years.

LSU v Arkansas Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

One of the last ties to the greatest era of Southwest Conference football has passed away. Frank Broyles, the man who made Arkansas a national power and later guided their move to the SEC, died Monday at the age of 92.

Broyles went 144-58-5 leading Arkansas to its only national championship in 1964. Hired by the Razorbacks in 1958, he joined Darrell Royal in dominating the SWC for the next 19 years, creating a storied rivalry while also forming a life-long friendship.

During those 19 seasons, Texas won or shared 12 SWC titles, while Arkansas won or shared 7 crowns. The duo represented the SWC in the Cotton Bowl 15 of those 19 years.

Royal had the upper hand in their personal rivalry winning 14 of the 19 contests between the two. But that doesn’t begin to tell the story of the fierce competition the two coaches waged over those two decades. From 1959-1969 the games were prime examples of two talented, well-coached teams who loved to hit until the echo of the whistle.

In 1959, Texas won 13-12. Next year Arkansas took the contest 24-23. That generally was to tone of the game for those 11 seasons. In Texas’ 1963 National Championship year, the Longhorns outlasted Arkansas 17-13, jumping out to a 17-point lead and then withstanding a 4th quarter rally by the Razorbacks.

The next season, Texas was defending that title as well as a 15-game winning streak when the #8 Razorbacks came calling. Texas held Arkansas to just 136 yards of total offense. But an 81-yard punt return by Ken Hatfield kept the Razorbacks within striking distance, and finally they put together a 75-yard drive in the 4th quarter to take a 14-7 lead.

Texas rallied with a 70-yard drive of their own, capped off by a short Ernie Koy run.

Sitting in the stands with my parents, I can remember the next play with the clarity (and pain) that comes from having it burned in your 12-year old mind. QB Marv Kristnynik, chased by a heavy rush, hurried his pass, which then fell harmlessly at the feet of a wide-open Hix green with just 1:27 left.

Arkansas ran the table and then defeated Nebraska in the Cotton Bowl, though they still needed Texas’ help to gain a National Championship.

Back then most major outlets declared the college football champion after the regular season. However the Football Writers Association of America waited until after the bowls.

After beating Nebraska on Jan. 1, the Razorbacks gathered at their hotel to watch #4 Texas take on Joe Namath and #1 Alabama in first prime-time college bowl game ever in the Orange Bowl. Texas held on for a 21-17 win, and Arkansas had its one and only football title.

Arkansas would break the Horns hearts in both 1965 (27-24) and 1966 (12-7) to give Frank Broyles a 3-game win streak against his arch-rival.

Of course heartbreak of biblical proportions was just around the corner for Arkansas, AKA “The Game of the Century.”

When the two coaches met at midfield after the contest, Darrell quietly tried to console Frank Broyles’ 10-year old twin daughters who were crying uncontrollably.

But as hard as they competed on the field, they held a great respect and friendship for each other off it. Both were charming, charismatic men who were comfortable in any situation. Both were also hard-nosed coaches who demanded much of their players and gave much in return, especially after they graduated.

They also had an all-abiding love for golf.

During that intense decade of football, the duo would get together in the off-season to blow off steam by playing “marathon” golf. My dad was a member of the Austin Country Club, and there were times during the summer when the DKR rules were in effect. If you were on the course, Darrell and Frank always had “playing through” privileges. They loved the game and they loved to play fast. They were known to play 54 holes in a day, and you had better not even entertain the idea of slowing them down to talk a little football or sign an autograph.

Their on-field rivalry ended in 1976. Not with a bang but a whimper.

Once again the game had been moved to the end of the season, but this time it was a farewell for both coaches, who decided to leave the sideline at the same time. Texas won the game 29-12, and giving both Royal and Broyles 5-5-1 records for their final seasons.

But that hardly mattered.

They had built a rivalry that captured fans across the nation for more than a decade. They also gave the SWC credibility and memories that would not be matched again.

I was a young broadcaster for KVUE-TV that night. Broyles had announced his resignation earlier in the season. The rumors about Royal retiring had been rumbling for months, and finally that Saturday morning, the open secret became official when he handed in his letter of resignation to the athletics council.

I had a wonderful career in sports reporting, got a chance to see and cover more than my share of spectacular events. That evening is one of the special memories.

I never have been much for collecting memorabilia. While I have admired many of the athletes I have had the pleasure to come in contact with, I certainly didn’t feel the need to collect remembrances of people or events.

However, in my safety deposit box, I have a press pass dated December 4th, 1976, signed by Coach Royal and Coach Broyles.

I last got it out on November 7, 2012.

I just may have to go find it again tonight.