State of the Hogs: Broyles Celebrated

Johnny Majors hails Frank Broyles as a great strategist and wonderful technical coach as the legendary Arkansas coach and athletic director is celebrated.

Johnny Majors didn't have the list in front of him at the charity event in Bryant on Monday. But he came pretty close to nailing it off the top of his head.

"Do you know how many Frank Broyles assistants went on to become head coaches?" said Majors, who was head coach at Iowa State, Pitt and Tennessee after serving for four years as a Broyles assistant.

It's around 40 with many coaching elite schools like Barry Switzer (Oklahoma), Fred Akers (Texas), Doug Dickey (Tennessee, Florida), Hayden Fry (Iowa), Jim Mackenzie (Oklahoma), Jimmy Johnson (Miami), Jackie Sherrill (Texas A&M), Pepper Rogers (UCLA), Ken Hatfield (Arkansas, Clemson).

It's one of the many tricks to what Broyles did right in over 50 years as coach (19 seasons, 144-58-5, seven SWC titles, 1964 National Championship) and athletic director at Arkansas. He hired the nation's top assistants and helped them move on to become head coaches. And, you learned all areas of the game, including the kicking game and how to recruit.

"Coach Broyles knew offense, he knew defense, he knew the kicking game," Majors said. "He had a great background because he was a great player at Georgia Tech. He punted, passed, ran and played defense. He was a great athlete. Winning meant a lot to him. He was extremely competitive.

"No coach could ever have a better training than prior to getting your first head job than I did with my four years with Frank Broyles from 64 through 67 before I became head coach at Iowa State in 68."

Majors will be among the speakers on the weekend in two days of celebration of the Broyles career, ending at the Razorback Foundation later this month. Jerry Jones, Dallas Cowboys owner, will speak at a luncheon Friday before a golf tournament at Paradise Valley. Majors will be among four speakers at the Saturday night dinner in Rogers. There are close to 900 tickets sold for that event.

I love the story that former Oklahoma State coach Pat Jones told about his first recruiting trip with Broyles in 1975. Jones had eaten just before getting on the plane. When they reached the home and a big meal was prepared by the prospects mother, Broyles whispered to Jones, "Eat and make sure you get several plates. You will like it and I don't care how much you just ate."

Broyles knew all facets of the game, but Majors said it was always clear that he was a CEO type as head coach. Assistant coaches knew they would coach without interference from Broyles, although he made sure they were teaching proper technique. Broyles was also heavily involved in scheme selection and implementation.

"Coach Broyles hired you to do a job and he let you do it," Majors said. "He let you do your job on the field. He certainly had a tremendous amount of input.

"Frank Broyles, without question, was one of the brightest people to ever coach college football. He was one of the greatest coaches of all time."

Broyles was always tinkering with his staff and told assistants that they should learn both sides of the ball. That was the way it was for Majors. He joined the staff in 1964, when the Hogs won the national title, as secondary coach and eventually coached offense, too, before leaving after the 1967 season.

"I got to coach defense three years and offense one year," Majors said. "Frank Broyles was extremely bright and he wanted you to learn all areas. He prepared you to be a head coach."

Majors learned many lessons from Broyles. The red haired Broyles was sometimes fiery.

"Coach Broyles had a temper and he let it out when it was appropriate," Majors said. "But one great thing about him, Coach Broyles didn't let it boil. He got it out of his system. The next hour he would be friendly.

"He didn't like people disliking him. He got the point across and was very quick to get back to the main job at hand. He forgave very quickly and he was understanding."

Case in point, Broyles is friends with some coaches that he fired or left with bad feelings, like Eddie Sutton and Lou Holtz.

Majors said he learned much from Broyles, including both tactical expertise and technical coaching points. Majors said he played single wing tailback at Tennessee (where he finished second in the Heisman Trophy race) and was not equipped as either a secondary coach or an offensive backfield coach when he arrived in Fayetteville.

"I coached corners when I first got to Arkansas and Coach Broyles taught me the proper technique," Majors said. "He knew it and showed me the exact way to coach corners.

"Then, when he moved me over to the offensive backfield in '67, I was coaching something I hadn't hardly done since high school, how to make a handoff or take a snap. So Coach Broyles taught me proper technique for all of that.

"His ability to coach technique was outstanding. He was as good as anyone in the specifics of technique. I learned so much from Coach Broyles."

Majors inherited a great secondary when he arrived at Arkansas in the spring of 1964. He had Ken Hatfield and Billy Gray as the halfbacks, Charlie Daniel as monster (strong safety) and Harry Jones at free safety.

Things ended smoothly with all those shutouts, but nothing was easy to start the season when the Hogs slipped by Oklahoma State, 14-10. Then there was a 31-22 comeback victory in week two against Tulsa.

"The first year at Arkansas, I remember vividly," Majors said. "We had somewhat of a struggle in Little Rock with Oklahoma State and then against Tulsa. The Oklahoma State game was close. And we beat Tulsa, 31-22, after trailing, 14-0.

"I got introduced to the passing game very quickly as a defensive backfield coach. Tulsa had Jerry Rhome and Howard Twilley. They were 20 for 28 that day, but we won the game because we kept them out of the end zone most of the time."

The Hogs figured it out and eventually got a great pass rush from the likes of tackles Loyd Phillips and Jim Williams and ends Bobby Roper and Jim Finch and nose guard Jimmy Johnson.

"I did some shaking and was quite nervous when I was introduced to the Southwest Conference passing game," Majors said. "But we matured every week and that may be the greatest disciplined team of all time.

"I'm pretty sure that that team still holds the record for fewest turnovers and fewest fumbles. It was phenomenal. When you don't turn the ball over – no fumbles or interceptions on offense – you are going to win."

The Hogs had just 14 total turnovers, just six lost fumbles. Eight of those turnovers came in the first three games. There were almost none in that streak of shutouts to end the season.

"We shutout the last five opponents," Majors said. "Harry Jones touched it twice as the safety man and returned two interceptions for touchdowns. And we led the nation in punt returns.

"We not only didn't beat ourselves on offense – with discipline on offense, which comes from Coach Broyles and assistant coaches – but on defense. To shut out the last five and to score on defense on interceptions and punt returns, it's one of the greatest teams in American football as far as not beating yourself and having a great defense."

The Broyles way was to be innovative. Seldom did Broyles stand pat. He was always looking for an edge, former assistant Ken Turner said.

"If someone was doing something good, Coach Broyles sent someone in the spring to talk to them," Turner said. "He sent me to North Carolina to check their kicking game and he sent me to Alabama about receivers. He did that with all of our coaches. We'd go talk business with them and come back before spring practice.

"He did let you coach, but he knew more football than any head coach I ever worked for. He'd hire you to coach, but he would say, 'Well, we might ought to do this.'

Turner said the worst feeling he had as a Broyles assistant was in the 1976 Cotton Bowl before the Hogs beat Georgia.

"I was coaching the kickers and Coach Broyles wanted to know which way the wind was blowing," Turner said. "It was 10 minutes before kickoff. He sent me out to check it one last time. I went to one 30 and threw something up and it blew to the goal post on that end. I went to the other 30 and did the pitch it up and it blew to that goal post.

"I went in and said, 'Coach, I don't know what to tell you which way it's blowing. It's blowing to the goal post at both ends.' He said, 'Oh, I know that. It always swirls in the Cotton Bowl. I just wanted to make sure.' I was embarrassed to tell him I didn't know the wind direction. I guess he already knew."

Turner has another great memory from that game. There was a note that came down from the stands after Arkansas struggled against the Georgia defense in the first half.

"It was from Betsy," Turner said of one of Frank's twin daughters. "A manager brought it to me. She was 13. I opened the note and said, 'No more runs into the middle. Call some passes.' So we talked about whether we should give it to him. We did and there were three touchdown passes in the second half and we won going away."

That's some of the stuff you'll probably hear Saturday night. It shapes up as a can't miss evening. Who knows, maybe Betsy has some more plays for her dad?

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