McCollum’s Column: Frank Broyles and an old notepad

The well-worn, 19-cent notepad in these pictures is priceless upon the death of Frank Broyles.

 

It represents my first major interview in 50-plus years in the newspaper industry.

But it is much more than that.

Before I get to how this connects with Broyles, I need to frame my experience with the person I consider did as much for the state (because he gave Arkansans a new psyche and pride) than any individual.

Broyles was one of the most accessible high-profile coaches I and many others have ever dealt with. His number was in the Fayetteville phone book and he took many a late-night phone call from reporters at the time and classily responded to questions about a number of issues. After home games in Fayetteville, he would host a reception for reporters and staff at his home. It was an informal time of food, fellowship and fun after a high-stress day. There would be stories and a tidbit or two of insight for future stories.

Such accessibility is unimaginable in the programmed, expansive, strictly controlled media culture of today.

Those who covered him at the time considered Broyles often two or three steps ahead of everybody in his vision and insight.

Even to those who criticized him, Broyles was a gentleman and treated them with respect.

He was not a saint. He had clashes with coaches Lou Holtz, Ken Hatfield, Eddie Sutton, Jack Crowe and Nolan Richardson. He reacted with the passion and fire that made him a good coach. He looked after UA interests to the bitter end.

But there was some form of reconciliation with all of the above. He allowed time to heal. Richardson has acknowledged Broyles opened a door of opportunity for African-American coaches in the South.

With his blinders on concerning UA interests, his immovable stance, understandable from his viewport, about the Razorbacks not competing against teams from other state institutions, became outmoded and not what is in the best interests of all the state and college athletics in general.

Despite that, what I admired about Broyles was that he respected and valued the media and what it meant to an informed citizenry.

Because of that, he was one of the major speaker that gave an initial boost to the Arkansas Sports Club, which now has had 140 speakers. He came to Conway twice for the Arkansas Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame banquet and lent his support to that organization.

With that in mind, here is the back story about that old 19-cent wire notebook.

Our principal at Kingsbury High School in Memphis, Frank Billingsley, was a huge Razorback fan, the first I remember.

For a banquet our senior year, he arranged for Broyles to be the guest speaker.

Arkansas was one of the power teams in college football at the time and since I was the sports editor of the school newspaper, those in charge arranged an interview with Broyles.

On the pages of that notebook are the questions I wrote out and his responses. I never threw away what was technically my first reporter’s notebook.

When Broyles came to Conway decades later, I had him autograph one of the pages as that initial relationship came full circle.

There are many memories of Broyles, the coach, the visionary, the fund-raiser, the TV analyst, the Alzheimer’s care advocate.

What I will cherish was how he treated a timid, high school journalist at one-of-many engagements for him.

He even thanked me for interviewing him.

 

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