ROGERS — When Loyd Phillips and Tom Reed heard there was a banquet celebrating Frank Broyles’ retirement, the former Arkansas football players discussed whether or not they should attend.
After all, it wasn’t the first time he had retired. Broyles hung up his coaching whistle after the 1976 football season. He stepped down as athletic director in 2007, too.
But Phillips said the conversation didn’t last long.
“I said, ‘Tom, I don’t think we need to miss it,’ and he agreed,” Phillips said. “We just felt like we had to be here.”
Phillips and Reed weren’t alone. They were among a crowd of roughly 1,000 who didn’t want to miss a night celebrating the four quarters of Broyles’ life in the John Q. Hammons Center in Rogers on Saturday. The event, which also served as a fundraiser for the Frank and Barbara Broyles Foundation Caregivers United, was part of a weekend honoring Broyles’ 56-year association with the Razorbacks.
A who’s who list paid tribute to Broyles during the event. Legendary college football coach Johnny Majors, former Razorback great Bill Montgomery and former Arkansas coach Houston Nutt were among the speakers Saturday. Former Arkansas coach and ESPN college football analyst Lou Holtz, Gov. Mike Beebe, Executive Director of the American Football Coaches Association Grant Teaff, and former ABC college football announcer Keith Jackson also honored Broyles with video tributes.
“You’ve got everyone here,” said Nutt, who was the last football coach Broyles hired at Arkansas. “It’s just a great time because Coach Broyles has done so much in 55 years I don’t think anybody could ever top that number. I don’t know if people realize what goes with that number is all that he’s given back to former players, coaches, fans, people you don’t even know that he made a difference in their lives.
“He’s a big-time difference-maker and a winner. He’s a legend and an icon.”
His influence was evident during the event, when former players, assistant coaches and long-time friends shared stories about Broyles’ life and career.
Holtz — who also coached the Razorbacks from 1977 to 1983 — said in his video tribute he was a “better person for having been around” Broyles and credited his former boss for “bringing Arkansas to the world.” Former Razorback Scott Bull told Broyles he “taught a state the right way to play.” Another former Razorback, Muskie Harris, said during his presentation Broyles’ “legacy will never be forgotten.”
Phillips simply called his former coach “Frank of the Ozarks.”
“When I see him and he says ‘Hi Loyd, and walks over and shakes my hand, it still gives me butterflies,’” Phillips said. “I have tremendous respect for him.”
Former Arkansas basketball coach Eddie Sutton, gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson, athletic director Jeff Long, football coach Bret Bielema and men’s basketball coach Mike Anderson also were in attendance for the event.
Bielema recalled a lunch meeting with Broyles in the months after he was named Arkansas’ coach in Dec. 2012. Bielema said the conversation, as well as Broyles’ “blueprint” for the program, impacted him.
“I remember him grabbing my hand when we were getting ready to leave and he said, ‘You know, Frank Broyles’ name has only been attached to the University of Arkansas for 54 years’ at the time,” Bielema said. “He said I hope you know what it means. It was kind of his way of saying don’t be one of those guys (who leaves). It meant a lot to me. I know exactly where he was coming from.”
The celebration ended with the Broyles family on stage leading a Hog Call.
Fittingly, the 89-year-old Broyles was at the center of it all. He grabbed the microphone before it began to tell the crowd “there’s nothing to equal the Hog call.”
And there’s no one who can equal Broyles’ impact on Arkansas over his 56 years.
“There’s not anybody out there that’s probably commanded any more respect from players, from coaches, from everyone,” said former Oklahoma State coach Pat Jones, who worked for Broyles in the 1970s. “It’s a marvelous story. …. I hope time doesn’t erode that. He has touched so many people. It’s unbelievable.”