LITTLE ROCK "Ohhhh, ohhhh," Frank Broyles mutters, in agony, his perpetual state at Razorback football games. He sits slumped, his head between his legs as in a kind of burrow, his eyes staring vacantly at stadium cement, like a cowering kid at a horror flick afraid to look at the really scary parts.
He rakes his silver hair until it's so mussed it looks like Jerry Lewis' in The Nutty Professor . His chin butts his chest and he rocks back and forth like a sick man with the shakes. He breathes hard and rhythmically -- "hoooo, hoooo, hoooo..." -- as if on the brink of hyperventilating. He mutters to himself -- soft pleas, exasperated groans, stuff only he understands: "Gosh, too late, there now, oh, gosh ..."
Finally, prodded by a swelling of noise from 53,000 football fans in Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium, the University of Arkansas' athletic director lifts his head, compulsion overtaking his fear; he needs to know what's happening. Wincing, he watches a play unfold, murmuring, "Ohhhh, the wind's against us, need a good kick now OK, OK, no, no, no, no ..."
The color drains from his face. The Arkansas punter has fumbled a snap from center, forced to fall on the ball deep in Arkansas territory, with the opposition on this September day, Southern Methodist University, taking possession on the Arkansas 22-yard line and primed to score.
Broyles, who grabs a tuft of his hair as if about to yank it out, can't stand it any longer. He has a new coach, Houston Nutt, and if the team loses its Little Rock home opener to lowly SMU, the media will likely note the team looked dismal; that hopes for a swift turnaround in the team's fortunes were delusional; that, in Nutt, Broyles didn't exactly help to hire the new Bear Bryant, proof that his days as an astute scout of coaching talent ended about 10 years ago.
He already has visions of the possible fallout: Ticket sales could plummet. Contributions to the Razorback Fund might drop. He'll have difficulty paying the UA Athletic Department's bills, which have escalated from $1 million to about $24 million annually during his 24-year reign. It is Broyles' Doomsday nightmare.
Now, with SMU players celebrating, he is up and out of an end zone seat -- anxiety pushing him, his long slender legs eating up ground, shockingly swift at 73. "Kills you," he mutters. He has exited the stadium when a howl comes from the belly of the beast, a collective groan from spectators inside. Broyles sighs, absorbing the groan's meaning like a marine biologist listening to whale sounds. "Ohhhh, that's a bad one, I know that noise."
SMU has scored a touchdown, to tie the game in the first quarter.
"Ohhhh ..." He freezes, looking up at something only he can see. In the glory days of his 19-year coaching career, he at least had something to do in these moments -- strategies to formulate, players to exhort, referees to chew out. Since leaving coaching in 1976, there's been only this walk on game days, this unremitting tension. "Kills you," he keeps mumbling. "Kills you ..." He figures he has walked out of 30 games in his career as athletic director at the University of Arkansas. In 1984, early in the coaching reign of Ken Hatfield, a shaken Broyles hurried out of Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville after underdog Tulsa scored a first-quarter touchdown to take the lead. Trudging around town for three hours, he had walked 15 miles by the time he re-entered the stadium with a couple of minutes left in the game and no idea of the score, his heart pounding. Arkansas had come back to put the game on ice. "There wasn't exhilaration, no joy," he said. "You just felt ... spared." In the early '90s, doctors discovered that he had an irregular heartbeat exacerbated by tension, and ordered him for a brief period to stay away from games. He wore a heart monitor for a while and remains alert to signs of when his heartbeat soars in the danger zone. But not even his vow to be serene and think pleasant thoughts helps him now. "Hi, Coach Broyles ... Hey, Frank ...," fans call to him. He sees nothing -- aside from the patch of a game in his head. Walking, walking. On a few occasions, he has left games seething. When he stormed out at halftime of Arkansas' 1992 opening game against The Citadel in Fayetteville -- with the favored Razorbacks en route to a 10-3 loss and another disappointing start under third-year coach Jack Crowe -- it marked the end of Crowe, whose dismissal came the next day.
The fate of at least one other coach -- the successful Hatfield, whose winning percentage at Arkansas exceeded even Broyles' -- had its origins in these jittery walks. When Broyles left War Memorial Stadium during the closely fought 1987 Arkansas-Texas game, he bounded aimlessly around Little Rock for an hour, ending up several miles away when a stunned motorist recognized him and invited him to listen to the game's closing minutes on his car radio. Arkansas led, but Texas had the ball, mounting a last drive. The game's outcome hinged on the final play, when Texas completed a short, winning touchdown pass, the ball barely eluding the fingertips of a couple of Arkansas linebackers, the disconsolate Broyles hearing the announcer's wail over a scratchy radio and wondering where the team's coaches had positioned the linebackers. The moment sparked the beginning of his problems with Hatfield. Two days later, when he asked one of Hatfield's assistants about the linebackers, word spread that Broyles was meddling, a charge that took on credence when, a few weeks later, Broyles indicated that he wished Hatfield would fire three of the assistants.
"Imperious" is one word his critics use to describe Broyles in such moments. Few men in athletics have accomplished more, but just as few have wielded power so autocratically. That fact represents the yin and yang of Broyles' professional life -- driven by Broyles' idea that winning in the end translates to more money and glory for athletics, and vice versa. He has been, by turns, winner, wizard and, in the winter of his years, a wily monarch. This means his lance is slow to see, but sure when it strikes. Those who have jousted with him have not lasted at Arkansas -- no matter their background, fame or successes.
Eddie Sutton -- Nolan Richardson's predecessor -- resurrected a comatose basketball program and brought Arkansas basketball to the Final Four. But he could not get along with Broyles in a titanic clash of egos, and left for Kentucky.
When Broyles became disenchanted with what he regarded as football coach Lou Holtz's self-promotion, his inattention to recruiting players and a reluctance to schmooze boosters, Holtz was forced out after seven seasons -- no matter that he generally had been a big winner.
Next came Hatfield, a former player under Broyles, an Arkansas hero whose punt return for a touchdown against Texas in 1964 had been the biggest play in perhaps Arkansas' biggest victory en route to an undefeated season and national championship for the Razorbacks. A golden boy, a class president, Hatfield seemed destined for greatness in coaching, returning to Arkansas from the Air Force Academy, where he'd won Coach of the Year honors.
Hatfield took Arkansas to two Cotton Bowls and an Orange Bowl. But four years into his Arkansas career, in the wake of that bitter 1987 loss to Texas and a blowout defeat the same year to Miami, the relationship between mentor and former student fell apart. When Hatfield failed to heed Broyles' advice to dismiss the three assistant coaches and to continue keeping his television show under the stewardship of Jack Stephens (a wealthy benefactor who'd long produced the coaches' lucrative TV shows at Arkansas) Hatfield's support among wealthy boosters -- loyal to Broyles -- dried up instantly. Sponsors pulled out from his television show, slicing Hatfield's income at Arkansas by about half. Broyles conspicuously avoided defending his beleaguered coach, even as Hatfield then guided Arkansas to consecutive Cotton Bowl bids and 10-2 seasons in 1988 and 1989. By early 1990, Hatfield had resigned and accepted a lucrative offer from Clemson.
In the wake of Sutton's, Holtz's and Hatfield's departures, there were cries from some Razorback fans and boosters for Broyles' head. Not long after Sutton said goodbye, Hamburg attorney William E. Johnson led a quixotic movement to amend the Arkansas Constitution to force Broyles to resign as athletic director.
Johnson blasted Broyles: "His ego is so large ... that any qualified coaches will not even consider working at Arkansas. He ran off Sutton. When you let one man stay in power too long, it corrupts the system." But each time the shouts soon died -- muted by Broyles' powerful supporters, drowned out by a belief that Broyles' achievements and a singular talent made him irreplaceable. Friends and critics agree that no one else in Arkansas has demonstrated Broyles' touch for raising money to feed the appetites of the university's athletic machine, Broyles' own creation. Says Johnson today: "No matter what anyone said in the past, the success of the basketball team in particular has shown he has a vision for how to win and build a program with a lot of supporters who have the financial means to do things. It runs and runs and never stops getting that money."
The machine, among other things, has built Bud Walton basketball arena without taxpayer money, hired Nolan Richardson, lured recruits, transformed the basketball program into a national champion and established a track and field dynasty under Coach John McDonnell. "Frank has done it with the fund raising," says longtime friend and financial supporter Ed Penick, former president and CEO of Worthen Bank. "It's not just that he played ball or was a terrific coach. That couldn't have kept people's support forever. ... A lot of former football players couldn't make change for a dollar. What's gotten our attention all these years is that Frank is a great businessman, if that's the term. Look at all this money he comes up with. ... He's raised over a hundred million dollars. Who else does that? Everybody has critics."
In recent years, the doubters had become more numerous and louder than ever, sparked by a series of controversies and disappointments -- an NCAA inquiry into his university's basketball program; a spate of drug arrests of UA athletes in the '80s and '90s; an alternately mediocre and pathetic football team under three coaches in the '90s; and skepticism even among his benefactors as to whether he still had the touch for hiring winners. Then, a university search committee selected Houston Nutt, whose first team has played beyond expectations and filled stadiums. Broyles looks golden again, for the time being. Still, as with every season, he begins feeling awful on the Thursday before any Saturday game, losing his appetite at lunch, fretting about the possibility of the players' overconfidence, wondering how boosters and fans will react if the team self-destructs.
His friends sometimes ask him why, at 73, he doesn't chuck the stomachaches and retire. How can he still stand to be sweating out how some jittery 19-year-olds will play on Saturday afternoon when he could be out swinging his golf clubs, living the easy caddied life under the Georgia dogwoods with his rich buddies at the Augusta National Golf Club? Why this compulsion to hang on?
He has unfinished business at the university, Broyles says. He talks about the addition to the football stadium that he must build to take Arkansas to the top, and how he'll then need to upgrade other athletic facilities to recruit blue-chip high school athletes. That is his standard response -- the one he'll repeat a hundred times in a monotone for boosters at Razorback Club dinners and reporters. The other answer -- more revealing and impassioned -- bursts from him only in an unguarded moment. "Did I tell you what happened last night at the restaurant?" he asks one day, his blue eyes glimmering.
He'd walked into a restaurant in North Little Rock and diners had spontaneously burst into applause, chanting "Go Hogs," shouting his name in that fevered way people do only around an idol. It has happened several thousand times in his life, he figures, but Broyles never tires of such scenes, the rare celebrity who will walk toward a buzzing throng knowing he won't escape for 15 minutes. The awed diners clamored for his autograph, for photographs, one man gushing that Broyles was his hero.
"It was a majestic high for me," Broyles says. Majestic high : He uses the phrase a lot -- his way of saying he feels euphoric, turned on, beloved. "Been riding this majestic high for 40 years," he says, grinning. "My wife tells me I've never had a real job in my life. That it's all been play."
He sounds slyly proud of this. The last time he held a "real job" was during his Georgia boyhood, when, at 16, he played semipro baseball for a steel company where he put in a few hours each day standing over a hot furnace "bluing" nails.
Broyles never saw the romance in that job or any other "regular work." He played two weeks of ball for the steel company and then said goodbye forever. The closest he ever came to the drudgery of long-term labor was when his father -- first a grocer, later a car dealer and insurance salesman -- caught him smoking during his teen-age years. "You've never had to really work," his father said. "I've always let you do what you want and play sports. But smoking's going to ruin you as an athlete. So if you're going to keep smoking, you might as well start working."
Broyles gave up smoking. Games became his goal, profession, hobby, a ticket to success and stature. He starred as an Orange Bowl record-setting quarterback at Georgia Tech, became an assistant coach at 21 at Baylor, the head coach at Missouri at 32, the new coach of Arkansas a year later, the winner of a national championship at 39 -- all the while riding other men's absorption with games to a television show that eventually paid him more than $150,000 a year during his coaching days -- just part of a package from grateful Arkansas benefactors that included sponsoring him for a membership and paying his dues at elite Augusta National. He doesn't have pastimes, as most adults define them. He doesn't do household chores -- he has never once mowed his own lawn. His wife cut the grass in their early years and later served as handyman, gardener, plumber and electrician. "I can't fix a thing," Broyles says. "I don't do those things and ... I don't do well just relaxing, because I don't want to relax." He just does games. He craves a game the way the mountain climber needs Everest, looking for that majestic high. As a young coach at Arkansas no longer able himself to throw touchdown bombs, he took up golf with the zeal with which he'd played quarterback, going so far as to have his golf swing filmed with the same camera that recorded his players' practices, then studying the tape of his swing for hours, determined to weed out its flaws.
"If I don't win at anything, I'm not happy," he confesses. He lives much of the time, as one of his closest friends says fondly but privately, in a state of blissful, arrested adolescence, a man who has made a life out of balls and scores.
His entire adult life has been an exercise in making certain that he has enough contests to keep the next high just a victory away. Feeling another void after his retirement from coaching in 1976, the urge struck him to join the little-known, meager-paying, but ruthlessly competitive professional bridge circuit. Having found a partner and started a daily practice regimen, he was ready to set out with his diamonds and spades until ABC asked him to be a weekend analyst on its college football telecasts. "I sometimes wonder how I'd done in the tournaments," he says wistfully.
It was one majestic high that got away.
"I never get tired of winning," he says. "I need to win."
Which is why when a smart-aleck fan, with a radio pressed to his ear, passes him outside War Memorial Stadium and snaps, "They aren't gonna blow it, are they, Coach?" -- Broyles' face turns white as a snowdrift.
"Did something else happen?" he blurts, his walk quickening to a jog.
The fan is already gone.
"Did something happen ?"
He races to his private skybox, where his wife and his 9-year-old granddaughter, Allison, sit with their faces pressed against the glass, laughing and sipping Cokes as they look out on the crowd. Broyles immediately assumes his game position, head between his legs, mumbling, rocking, rocking, rocking. His granddaughter looks over her shoulder at him, a smirk on her face. "Grandpa, what are you doing?"
"I'm nervous," he whispers.
"Why?" she asks.
"He's always nervous, honey," Barbara answers for him.
Broyles says nothing. Rocking, rocking.
Arkansas has taken a 17-10 lead, but SMU has the ball and is moving.
"Scares the life out of me," he mumbles. The Question , again: Why in hell would anyone one month shy of 74 still want this job?
On another day, Frank Broyles knows The Question is coming. He has prepared for it as if it were a foe's goal-line fake and trick pass, ready to deflect it away with an agile answer: It would be premature for him to retire now because of a series of athletic projects demanding his attention.
Besides, he'll add, he feels as energetic as ever, stressing that he has set no retirement date -- though remarking, on the other hand, that he can't see himself serving as the UA's athletic director five years from today. It is an answer a crafty politician would envy, filled with enough ambiguity that friends and critics alike could find something to like in it. As during his whole life, he is ready again to make the smart, winning move. Let the rush come from the press; bring on The Question.
Only it doesn't come. Instead, he's asked: What would you do without the games?
"I'll always have some kind of game," he says softly, drumming his fingers on a table, the portrait of sartorial and executive splendor in a light blue suit, staring at his toys on his conference table -- miniature models of his new project, a refurbished football stadium with a futuristic-looking set of ribbon-like ramps. "For years, golf has been my big personal passion. I work harder on my golf game than anybody in Arkansas. I'm playing better than ever; have as much energy as ever."
He hones his golf game for three hours on most days, last year shooting a 72 at Augusta at age 72 on a maddening course where Tiger Woods once shot 80.
He has shot nine holes-in-one, including one as recently as August. "I think I hit the ball as far as 20 years ago," he mumbles, letting this sink in.
Pantomiming a golf shot, he segues into a report on his three-mile morning walks that he makes while swinging a four-pound weight in each hand, stressing that his improved golf scores should be attributed to his fitness regimen. Even the issue of fitness offers competition for him. He boasts that, at 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, he hasn't gained a pound since college, having made his wife take a vow at the time of their marriage not to put on an extra ounce either. "I mention this because... sometimes people ask about my health. On the subject of my future, it's always hard to say."
He is driving the discussion toward The Question, only to run into another detour. Why did a Georgian take a head coaching job in Arkansas in '58?
Broyles looks amused. It's 1998, and this inquisitor drags him back 40 years. "Well, I knew there was nothing else in Arkansas competing for fans' attention," he says. "Nothing. There were no professional teams in Arkansas, no other major college rival. ... Here, you'd have everything to yourself -- the whole state." He thumps the table. " The ... whole ... state. . That's the ultimate. No other place in the country except Nebraska has something like that. This university had things to itself. It still does."
"So do you, some of your friends say," the inquisitor remarks.
There it is. Pleased, Broyles purses his lips, a smile curling there. The comment sounds like a way toward working at The Question. Fine, let's get to it.
"Well, I'm gonna keep doing my best; it's been exhilarating," Broyles says softly, which is along the lines of what he always says in these moments when slowly leading toward a discussion of the retirement issue. "It's been a long time." Long is the apt word. Think of his longevity this way: He accepted the coaching reins at Arkansas during Dwight Eisenhower's presidency and the early years of Orval Faubus' and Elvis Presley's reigns. He has held the essential power over Arkansas athletics for longer than Fidel Castro has ruled Cuba -- through 40 years, nine American presidents, eight Arkansas governors, eight university chancellors, segregated teams, integrated teams, a controversial private fund raising more than $100 million for athletic facilities in periods when faculty members often complained about scarce academic resources, six successors as football coaches, bouts with restive fans, and a couple of futile Bay of Pigskin coup attempts.
So successful has he been as an administrator that few people see him as a former athlete. This seems the way he wants it; he does not talk about his glory days as a player at Georgia Tech unless prodded. When his granddaughter recently asked him at a game if he'd ever played football, he stopped rocking, looked at her and shrugged.
"Yes," he said. "A little."
"I don't spend a lot of time thinking about those days," he murmured later, having no wish for anyone to perceive him either as an ex-jock dwelling on yesteryear.
He resolved at 21 that he wouldn't be one of those sad ex-stars brought out on anniversaries to stand at midfield, listening to faint, polite applause. He wanted to run the big games for a lifetime, be at the center of the show. At 31, by then already having served as an assistant offensive coach at Baylor, Florida and Georgia Tech, he was desperate to land a top job for himself, noticing other men his age landing head coaching jobs all over, feeling the world passing him by. He talked to John Barnhill, UA's athletic director at the time, but Barnhill said no, advising Broyles that he was interested in hiring a man who already had head coaching experience.
Broyles felt trapped. His boss at Georgia Tech, legendary Coach Bobby Dodd, had unwittingly made advancement virtually impossible for him by routinely recommending both Broyles and another assistant whenever a head coaching position opened up somewhere in the country, thereby reducing each man's chance.
The only solace came in working for Dodd, with whom he had been cast in the role of prodigy. Broyles would sit for hours with Dodd, watching game film as the older man made observations and pronouncements, the student filing away in his mind Dodd's strategies, commandments and taboos for football games and life.
Broyles' fundamental beliefs about the management of games and athletic programs come from those years with Dodd, not the least of which was the one formed on a day in the early '50s when Dodd shook his head in dismay watching game film of arch-rival Georgia and All-American quarterback Zeke Bratkowski.
Exasperated over how they could possibly defend Bratkowski, Dodd fantasized aloud about how much easier things would be for Georgia Tech's team if there were no University of Georgia. Most of their players would be ours, Dodd said. The whole state would be ours. We wouldn't have half of the state rooting against us.
It was a seminal moment for Broyles. Years later, when people in Arkansas would press him to allow Arkansas to play Arkansas State or another potential intra-state rival, he would remember Dodd's words and flatly say no, afraid that a game against another state school would undermine Arkansas' ability to keep a monopoly on nearly all the state's top athletes and financial supporters. He wouldn't allow the school to share the stage, knowing that to do so would compromise its ability to remain a powerhouse.
Dodd taught him about the stage, about ball position, the importance of kicking and, unintentionally, the despair in staying a prodigy too long. Finally, after six years of winning under the master -- a national championship, six bowl games, a streak of 28 undefeated games over three seasons at the zenith -- Broyles worked up the nerve to tell Dodd he'd leave Georgia Tech in 1957 -- whether or not he had a job waiting elsewhere. Fortuitously, the University of Missouri came calling, and 31-year-old Broyles had his first head coaching job. His team went an unspectacular 5-4-1 in his rookie year, but the school was merely a steppingstone, because Broyles had never forgotten John Barnhill's words. A year later, the Arkansas job came open and Broyles courted Barnhill's favor. He won the Arkansas job, then watched his inaugural team lose its first six games -- an unprecedented streak of futility for a new coach. He wrote his father in Georgia and said that someone better hold a job for him in the insurance business: He thought he'd probably be coming home soon. He was his own Jack Crowe, except that, perhaps luckily for him, Broyles did not have a Frank Broyles overseeing him. Barnhill called Broyles' wife and assured her that her husband's job was safe; that university officials continued to have confidence in him, driving the point home by giving Barbara a station wagon and Broyles a raise. "Barnhill was like a second father to me," Broyles said. "Here I was expecting something awful and he can only say positives. ... You work harder than ever after that."
His team won its final four games of the year. In 1959, he exceeded all expectations -- leading Arkansas to a 9-2 record and a share of the Southwest Conference championship, the season culminating in a fantasy realized. He beat his old mentor Dodd in the Gator Bowl, 14-7.
Almost immediately, rumors circulated that Florida wanted to hire him. That moment, coupled with his 1959 success, marked a turning point in the relationship between Broyles and his Arkansas supporters, who became desperate to keep him, mindful that his immediate predecessors (Bowden Wyatt and Jack Mitchell) had fled Arkansas after only two and three years on the job, respectively. Arkansas' chief boosters set out to discourage Broyles from searching for a more glamorous coaching job, rewarding him for what Broyles years later would call his "loyalty," raising his share of his coach's television show from $300 to $1,000 a program, sending the signal that he had carte blanche.
Along the way, Broyles learned about Arkansas' perilous internecine battles that would guide the way he ran the athletic department years later. When an electrical company in Shreveport, La., was allowed to sign on as a sponsor of Broyles' show, Arkla Gas chairman Witt Stephens immediately yanked his company's sponsorship, angry that a competitor had gained entry to the show. An aghast and apologetic Broyles quickly called Witt Stephens' brother, Jack, who laughed and said not to worry: He would get Broyles more well-heeled advertisers than ever before and run the show himself.
Recalls Penick, Broyles' longtime friend: "I think people were just anxious to show Frank he had support. ... Coaches had gotten away from here before. Nobody wanted it to happen again."
The pack of supporters would stay with him for more than 30 years -- as Ken Hatfield would find out. None among them became more important to Broyles than Jack Stephens, who paved the way for Broyles' admission into Augusta National and led the group that, periodically, would boost Broyles' TV earnings in a sign of "gratitude," as Broyles likes to call it.
In the next four years, Broyles gave Arkansas three more conference titles and, finally, in 1964, an undefeated season and national championship. In that instant, he ascended from mere coach to legend. The apotheosis came with its share of burdens. Barnhill warned him: "You've just screwed up the best job in America."
Translation: The whole state will expect you to win every year.
Arkansas already had fallen all over itself to honor him. The state Legislature passed a resolution "naturalizing" Georgian Broyles as an Arkansan and voted him a university salary the virtual equal of the school's president -- except that no university president had benefactors paying him a lucrative salary for a television show that would exceed $150,000 annually at its height.
He had become that rarest of things in sports, the genuine personality who had risen above the mere discussion of button-hook passes, the athletic figure who transcended athletics. He was part savior and full-time promoter -- the personification of the state's arrival in bigtime sports and the chief advocate of the notion that a people's self-respect could be enhanced by successful athletic teams. Just a few years after the desegregation crisis at Little Rock Central High School, he became a welcome symbol for a state happy to shed its doormat status and shine against longtime antagonists, on and off the field.
"I went up to New York in the '60s," recalls Penick. "And suddenly nobody wanted to talk to me about Arkansas' problems anymore. They all wanted to talk about the Hogs' football team and the winning championships and Broyles. Frank changed people's ideas about Arkansas. Couldn't have been better for us ... and business."
Broyles' team came within a touchdown of a second national championship the next season, losing to LSU on New Year's Day 1966. Nearly four years later, came another chance in the biggest game of Broyles' career -- undefeated Arkansas meeting undefeated arch-rival Texas before a national television audience and a capacity crowd in Fayetteville that included a bevy of Secret Service men and President Richard Nixon.
The game endures in Arkansans' minds as the cruelest ever: Texas rallied from a 14-0 deficit in the final quarter to win. Broyles was so heartbroken that to this day he never has watched a tape of the game, solemnly confessing, "I'd have jumped out of the press box had I been up there. You never get over something like that. ... The horrors of defeat always outweigh the thrills of winning. Defeat eats you up. Just eats your insides."
After the game, Texas Coach Darrell Royal met Broyles at midfield for the obligatory handshake. At once rivals and close friends, the two men said almost nothing to each other. Royal, sensitive to the pain in Broyles' expression, turned his eyes on Broyles' two daughters, Betsy and Linda. "It was the girls' looks that got me and said everything about the family's hurt," Royal remembers. "The girls were sniffling a little. Frank didn't want to talk about it. He still doesn't. And I don't want to talk about it with him because I know how much it still hurts. I know how he feels."
Despite defeat, Broyles' persona mushroomed. He was a hotter property than ever. Georgia Tech sought to hire him for millions, and the NFL's Atlanta Falcons offered to open up their vaults for him, too.
Even disappointing seasons in the early '70s, and the university's student newspaper's call for his firing in 1972, did little to diminish his stature. Mindful of other schools' interest in Broyles, his Arkansas benefactors expressed their gratitude by continuing to give him regular raises for his TV show.
Broyles always possessed the leverage in the relationship. His decision to stay on at Arkansas had come with the understanding that he would run the show as its athletic director, a job that he assumed in 1974 -- on his terms. Upon his retirement as coach in 1976 after a sour 5-5-1 season, ABC claimed him as a weekend analyst on its football telecasts. Broyles, ignoring critics, spent weekends covering games outside of Arkansas, trusting people to understand how agonizing it would be for him to watch a new coach run his old team.
Barry Switzer -- a co-captain of Broyles' 1959 team and a stellar linebacker who had taken his first assistant coaching job under Broyles -- had been his first choice to succeed him, but Switzer had won two national championships in four seasons at Oklahoma and didn't feel like moving anywhere. "I had a lot of great players coming back and so I had to say no," Switzer recalls. "But it was a little hard. ... I wouldn't have been in coaching if it wasn't for Broyles taking me on as a graduate assistant. Would have been in law school, something like that."
Broyles had then turned to short, glib, wisecracking Lou Holtz, whose style was everything Broyles' wasn't, and who had come off a disappointing stint with the New York Jets but a successful run at North Carolina State. Holtz fared so well in his first season at Arkansas that no one could find reason to mourn either Switzer's or Broyles' absence from the Razorback sidelines. With Arkansas going 11-1 and trouncing Switzer's heavily favored Sooners in the Orange Bowl, Holtz had bettered all of Broyles' seasons in the '70s. The state had a new darling.
With his days as an on-field general finished and his grip on the Arkansan consciousness ebbing, Broyles looked for a new high-stakes challenge. "I kept myself busy on weekends with ABC, which meant I wouldn't be in Lou's hair, which I wouldn't have done anyway," he says. "But I knew I wanted to do some things at the university. We were behind in facilities, which was going to absolutely kill us with recruiting."
It was a familiar alarm from Broyles, who used it to make the case that Arkansas would become a "second-rate institution, athletically." He set his sights on building a sports empire, while aware that public money in Arkansas for new athletic facilities would be practically non-existent.
Neither Broyles nor his supporters in Northwest Arkansas had forgotten 1969, when at the height of his popularity Broyles had tried getting local voters to approve a tax increase to build an all-weather airport in nearby Tontitown, arguing that inclement weather shut down Fayetteville's Drake Field too often and prevented players, coaches and recruits from easily flying in and out. "I was afraid it'd become a problem for the Arkansas program," Broyles says. But Benton County voters slapped him down at the polls, and Broyles did not want to try the taxpayers again if at all possible.
When he needed financial support for the athletics program, he turned to the private fund that in time would simply be called the Razorback Foundation. It was capable of raising about $6 million in an ordinary year, much of that through a ticket program that linked priority seating at football games to the amount of contributors' donations. Broyles lobbied U.S. Sen. David Pryor and other members of Arkansas' congressional delegation to ensure that contributions would retain tax-exempt status despite arguments that contributions were not gifts, but payoffs for tickets. Broyles won. The fund went through several incarnations and names in those early years -- once called the "Razorback Scholarship Fund," a name that scarcely could have been more of a misnomer: One year, no money at all in the fund went to scholarships.
It was an athletic fund, pure and simple. Broyles used it to build state-of-the-art facilities, reward assistant coaches with bonuses, buy rings for teams, throw parties for the biggest donors and redecorate coaches' offices -- all the things he believed were necessary to attract talent and coaches.
There were controversies. He wouldn't divulge the names of donors. He threw what critics regarded as lavish cocktail parties during bowl game weeks with fund money. He stayed at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York at the fund's expense, inciting critics to wonder whether Broyles might be living the high life thanks to the fund. He received a $350,000 deferred compensation package from the fund's board of trustees -- money to be paid him after he left Arkansas -- an annuity similar to one he pushed through for Holtz and Sutton, leaving skeptics to ask whether Broyles had simply proposed his coaches' benefits as a means to pave the way for his own boon. "I'm not that smart," he says.
In the fallout, his reputation suffered some tarnishing. But the money from the private fund-raising machine never stopped coming. In 1984, he spent $125,000 from the fund to remodel coaches' offices during a period when the university couldn't afford to give the faculty raises. By 1985, the Razorback Foundation had finished a $9 million revamping of the football stadium, and built a $5 million dorm for athletes and a $1 million weight room. "You want to go first class," Broyles says.
It was in the '80s, too, that he raised $30 million to build a palace for the basketball team -- persuading Bud Walton to kick in $15 million from his Wal-Mart fortune.
The move came in the same era that Sutton resigned as basketball coach, off to take the head job at Kentucky in 1985 amid rumors that he and Broyles didn't get along. "OK, Frank and I had a few difficulties," Sutton says tersely today, declining to discuss specifics. "Basically, there was a personality problem. We were a couple big egos who could have hashed things out. We probably should have, but didn't. Each of us was stubborn. Each of us was used to getting his way. We made amends."
But not before Sutton was gone. Holtz had left abruptly two years earlier, citing "burnout," only to accept the head coaching job at the University of Minnesota a week after his departure. Swiftly, stories made the rounds that Broyles had forced Holtz's resignation. These days, Holtz won't talk about it, other than to say he has much admiration for his old boss. Broyles is uncharacteristically blunt. "Lou wasn't fired, but he didn't exactly leave on his own and you can make of that what you want to," he says. "Lou had burned a lot of bridges here. He'd lost the confidence of high school coaches whom you need to successfully recruit because he'd left the recruiting to his assistant coaches. He missed a lot of Razorback club meetings, sometimes because he was off making his own speeches out of the state. And he didn't help himself with comments he made on Carson."
Carson meant Johnny Carson's The Tonight Show , on which Holtz had said of Fayetteville: "It's not the end of the world but you can see it from there."
Broyles bristled. "I never uttered one negative word about Arkansas," Broyles says, rapping the table for emphasis.
What nettled him more was Holtz's refusal to commit to a long career at Arkansas, his offhand comments about not knowing where he'd be a year or two from then. "I always told people that I had no interest except in staying at Arkansas," Broyles says, "because I knew if I didn't, there would be a loss of confidence in me and the program. Recruiting would be hurt. You wouldn't have the same kind of support from boosters. Lou was always looking elsewhere. He dreamed of the Notre Dame job, which is where he ended up."
The rift just needed an end, which came after Holtz gave his endorsement to North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms in a television campaign commercial that never aired. When word leaked of the ad, Broyles said that Holtz had lost the confidence of black high school coaches and possible recruits.
Broyles shrugs and mumbles "no" when asked if the incident revealed his desire to make a coach in his own image. Strangely, he had second thoughts about Holtz, who went on to produce a national champion at Notre Dame. Twice in the '90s -- before he hired Danny Ford and Houston Nutt -- Broyles called Holtz and asked him to consider returning to the head job. "I've always admired Lou," Broyles says softly. "Nobody knows more about football. We played golf together. He's a charming guy."
He sounds almost wistful.
"Well, we spent a lot of time together."
Broyles didn't hang out with Holtz's successor Ken Hatfield, who wasn't much of a golfer and spent most of his time with his own assistants. When Hatfield refused the athletic director's recommendation to fire his three assistant coaches at the end of the 1987 season, he remembers Broyles telling him: "Well, it's your decision, but you're going to have to live with it."
Hatfield recalls thinking, "Well, he's saying if I don't have a great season, I'm gone."
Fearful of the worst, Hatfield wanted to clarify the terms of his employment at Arkansas -- defined, he'd thought, by a letter of agreement he'd signed a year earlier with the university, which said that he had a five-year "rollover" deal, essentially meaning that, each year it was renewed, it had become a new five-year deal. Hatfield thought four years remained. Broyles said no; that only three years were left on the agreement; that he, personally, had declined to roll over one of the years.
"That's wrong, Coach," Hatfield recalls saying, arguing that his deal was with the university; that Broyles had no right to change the terms of the deal. "We need to put something down on a contract so we're all clear."
Hatfield brought in a Florida attorney named Robert Fraley, whom Broyles referred to as an "out-of-state agent," openly expressing his distaste for having to negotiate a coach's contract through a hired gun, his disdain for Fraley exacerbated by the knowledge that another attorney on Fraley's staff had begun trying to add advertisers for Hatfield's TV show, a job that for three decades had belonged to Jack Stephens. "I couldn't understand, among other things, why Hatfield didn't want to use loyal Arkansas people for his show and was using all of these out-of-state people," Broyles remembers. "And I'd never had people talk to me like that before. Fraley said something to me like, 'Coach, I understand you don't like to deal with agents,' and when I said I didn't, he said, 'Well, you're going to have to deal with me.' "
Hatfield recalls the moment differently. "Coach Broyles kept calling Fraley an 'agent,' and Fraley finally said, 'Coach, we're licensed practicing attorneys deserving of respect here.' "
The contract went through two years of drafts and haggling, never to be signed, before Hatfield left for Clemson. "Coach Broyles never stopped being a coach," says Hatfield, who is at the helm of Rice University football these days. "He was surprised, I thought, when somebody didn't go along with his way."
Such comments anger Broyles. "I gave Ken advice one time -- when we talked about his assistant coaches," he says. "I'm far from a dictator. I was involved very little. Period."
He sees himself as simply a man who likes "order" and "loyalty" -- as opposed to being a "control freak." "Order" had nudged out Holtz and Hatfield, who were followed by an eight-year span of losing tenures under Jack Crowe, Joe Kines and Danny Ford.
What perhaps saved Broyles during this period of football decline was the ascendancy of the university's basketball team. In 1985, he hired Nolan Richardson, the first black head coach in the history of the Southwest Conference. He stuck by Richardson during a dreadful start made worse by the plight of Richardson's daughter, Yvonne, who was dying of leukemia. In 1994, the men's basketball team won a national championship, then followed up by going to the NCAA championship game the following season -- proof, he believes, in the wisdom of spending $30 million on Bud Walton Arena and making it a glittering showcase. Emboldened, Broyles set out to expand his empire, raising millions more to build baseball and track stadiums into jewels of college facilities.
But he will tell anyone who will listen that the health of the Arkansas' athletic program ultimately depends upon a winning football team. "If you don't win, people stop contributing and buying tickets and you can't pay your bills," he says. That explains his anxiety on this September day in Little Rock -- accounts for why, in his skybox at War Memorial Stadium, he keeps rocking and fretting even in the late stages of a 44-17 shellacking of dismal SMU. "If we lose a lot, we're in trouble."
Consequently, no hire, aside from Nolan Richardson's, was more important to Broyles' career than Houston Nutt's. "Some people had probably wondered whether Frank still had it, that knack," says Penick. "He wouldn't have wanted to leave without bringing back football."
"No," says Broyles. "Not yet. ... There are things to do."
Some of his skeptics, and even two of his friends, wonder if the ambitious scope and purported urgency of his projects derive from his own hunger to hang on. He's back in his Fayetteville office unconsciously pantomiming a golf swing and staring intently at his models of the proposed remodeled stadium that lie on his conference table -- knowing now that his vision will cost more than $50 million, which not even the Razorback Foundation can raise on its own. He is undeterred. It is another chance for a majestic high. It is his pride -- "the thing we must have to compete," he says -- so he is prepared to ask surrounding communities like Springdale and Rogers to levy a hotel-restaurant tax to pay for it. "Must have it," he says, rocking. "We need it to win. What's the alternative? We're not going to win ?"