Updated: May 19
Frank Broyles always said he lived a charmed life, and it was true. He leaves behind a multitude of legacies certain never to be replicated. Whether it was his unparalleled career in college athletics, as an athlete, coach, athletics administrator and broadcaster, or his tireless work in the fourth quarter of his life as an Alzheimer’s advocate, his passion was always the catalyst for changing the world around him for the better. He felt he was blessed to work for more than 55 years in the only job he ever wanted, first as head football coach and then as athletic director at the University of Arkansas. An optimist and a visionary who looked at life with an attitude of gratitude, Broyles lived life to the fullest for 92 years, almost 60 of them in his adopted state of Arkansas. To all who knew him, including thousands of Razorback fans who never met him, he was Coach Broyles, ambassador to the Razorback Nation and the state of Arkansas. To countless others, he was an advocate for caregivers around the world. Coach Broyles, 92, died from complications of Alzheimer’s disease, on August 14, 2017. A man of faith and a true Southern gentleman, Coach Broyles was a native of Decatur, Ga., but adopted Arkansas as his home in December 1957, when he became the head football coach for the University of Arkansas. He leaves an unmatched legacy of more than five decades of service to the University of Arkansas, the Razorback athletic program, and Arkansas.
Born Dec., 1924, to O.T. and Mary Louise Solms Broyles in Atlanta, Broyles was the youngest of five children and was a three-sport athlete throughout high school and college. He received a B.S. degree in industrial management from Georgia Tech University in 1947, where he lettered in football, basketball and baseball and set numerous records as quarterback of the Yellow Jacket football team. He led the Yellow Jackets to four football bowl appearances, was twice All-SEC and was the 1944 SEC Player of the Year.
He joined the U.S. Navy Reserve in 1942 just prior to his 18th birthday. While still at Georgia Tech, he was activated in early 1945 and served until the spring of 1946. In 1945, he married his high school sweetheart, Barbara Day, who remained his sweetheart until 2004, when she died from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. Coach Broyles and Barbara had four sons, Jack (Janet) Broyles, Hank (Mary Bassett) Broyles, Dan (Debra) Broyles and Tommy (Tisha) Broyles; twin daughters, Betsy (David) Arnold and Linda (Jim) Mayes; 17 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. In December 2005, Broyles married the former Gen Whitehead of Fayetteville, doubling the size of his family to include Gen’s seven children, Bruun (Kim Willis) Whitehead, Kathleen (George) Paulson, Eric (Jennifer) Whitehead, Joan (John) Threet, Ruth (Kevin) Trainor, Ted (Kelley) Whitehead and Philip (Kamron) Whitehead, as well as 13 grandchildren. Additionally, he is survived by his sister, Louise Broyles Ferguson of Cornelia, Ga., and numerous nieces and nephews. Broyles was preceded in death by his parents and three brothers (O.T. Broyles Jr., Charles Edward Broyles and Bill Broyles).
Following his graduation from Georgia Tech, Broyles was drafted in three sports, baseball, basketball and football, but he turned down professional offers to become an assistant football coach for Bob Woodruff at Baylor. After three years in Waco, he moved with Woodruff to Florida. A year later, Coach Bobby Dodd hired Broyles as the offensive backfield coach at Georgia Tech, and the team promptly rolled to a 31-game winning streak. In 1957, Broyles was named head football coach at the University of Missouri where he served one season before receiving an offer from UA Athletic Director John Barnhill to come to the University of Arkansas.
Broyles arrived in Fayetteville in December 1957, beginning a more than five-decade affiliation with the University of Arkansas and the Razorbacks as a coach and athletics administrator. In 19 seasons (1958-76) as the Razorbacks’ head football coach, Broyles amassed a record of 144-58-5, seven Southwest Conference (SWC) titles, 10 bowl bids, 20 All-Americans and 88 All-SWC selections.
In 1964, Broyles led the Razorback football team to an undefeated season that culminated in a 10-7 win over Nebraska in the Cotton Bowl. The National Championship was awarded to the Razorbacks by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) following the bowl games. The Cotton Bowl was part of a school record 22-game winning streak launched in the final game of the 1963 season and ending in the 1966 Cotton Bowl.
In 1973, Broyles was named UA Director of Athletics, a title he balanced with his head coaching duties until 1976 when he retired as Razorback head coach. Soon after his retirement from coaching and while still serving as athletics director, Broyles made a move to the broadcasting booth working alongside legendary sports announcer Keith Jackson with ABC’s college football coverage for nine years.
During his 33 ½ years as Athletic Director (1976-2007), Broyles transformed the Razorbacks from a program competitive primarily in football to one of the most successful all-sports programs in the nation. His vision and leadership was the driving force behind the University of Arkansas moving to the Southeastern Conference (SEC) in 1990. The move set the stage for the program’s growth and future success while dramatically changing the landscape of intercollegiate athletics. Arkansas won 43 national titles, 57 SWC titles, and 48 SEC titles, and the football team went to 22 bowl games during his tenure as athletic director. Broyles worked tirelessly to build and renovate athletic venues including Bud Walton Arena, Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Baum Stadium at George Cole Field, John McDonnell Field and the Mary B. and Fred W. Smith Razorback Golf Center. Following his tenure as athletic director, Broyles continued to serve the program at the Razorback Foundation (2008-14).
Broyles garnered numerous prestigious awards throughout his career and was inducted into more than a dozen Halls of Fame. A member of the inaugural class of the UA Sports Hall of Honor, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1983. He is also a member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame, Gator Bowl Hall of Fame, Georgia Tech Hall of Fame, Orange Bowl Hall of Fame, National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics Hall of Fame, SWC Hall of Fame and the State of Georgia Hall of Fame among others.
Broyles was honored by the National Football Foundation as the 2000 recipient of the John L. Toner Award for outstanding achievement as an athletic director. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette named him the most influential figure in athletics in the state during the 20th century. Broyles was active in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, including serving as its chairman from 1971-73 and later being named as a Lifetime Trustee of the organization.
In 1996, the Broyles Award was created in recognition of his long-standing history of developing successful assistant coaches. The Broyles Award is given annually to college football’s top assistant coach. In 2007, the field at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium was dedicated as Frank Broyles Field.
In 2013, a bronze statue of him was dedicated in front of the Broyles Athletic Center, the athletics administration building which also bears his name.
In 1982, Coach Broyles chaired the “Campaign for Books” at the University of Arkansas, and more than 100,000 volumes were added to the University Libraries. He was co-chair of the Campaign for the Twenty-First Century that raised $1.046 billion for the university and has been a generous personal benefactor to the university’s academic programs. In 2015, Broyles earned an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the University of Arkansas.
Broyles was an avid golfer and a member of the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., for more than a half-century. Seven times Broyles hosted the awards ceremony at the Masters, including presenting the coveted “Green Jacket” to such legendary golfers as Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. In 1982, Broyles appeared in the TV miniseries “The Blue and The Gray.” Broyles played the doctor who pronounced President Abraham Lincoln (played by Gregory Peck) dead after being shot at Ford’s Theater.
Beyond his professional career in athletics, Broyles’ second legacy is his personal commitment to improving the quality of life for those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and their loved ones. In 2006, Coach Broyles established the Barbara Broyles Legacy, later becoming the Frank & Barbara Broyles Legacy Foundation.
From 2005-10, Coach Broyles appeared before governmental agencies in Washington, D.C., and served on the White House Council on Aging. He spoke throughout the country at countless events and seminars on behalf of the Alzheimer’s Association, as well as private eldercare organizations.
In 2006, he turned his energies toward the publication and national distribution of a guidebook for caregivers, entitled “Coach Broyles’ Playbook for Alzheimer’s Caregivers” which is based on his family’s personal experience caring for his first wife, Barbara Day, in their home. To date, more than one million copies of the playbook have been distributed.
A private family burial will be held at Fairview Memorial Gardens in Fayetteville. A Celebration of the Life of Coach Broyles was held Saturday, August 19 at 2 p.m. at Bud Walton Arena on the University of Arkansas campus. The celebration was open to the public.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions may be made to the Frank & Barbara Broyles Foundation (BroylesFoundation.org) or Central United Methodist Church in Fayetteville.