The first Broyles Award was presented in a meeting room of a Western Sizzlin’ in Little Rock.
Eighteen years later, that Western Sizzlin’ is no longer around, but the Broyles Award presentation has blossomed into one of the best sports awards events in the country.
Sports entrepreneur and media personality David Bazzel, whose giving an award to the top assistant in America to honor the legacy of former Razorback coach Frank Broyles, was his brainchild, has enlisted a host of volunteers to make it a first-class, bigtime event.
Ten years ago, the Rotary Club of Little Rock became a presenting sponsor and has provided plenty of manpower — and woman power. The luncheon has many corporate sponsors.
The luncheon is held at the Marriott Hotel in the largest ballroom in the city.
The Broyles Award now is part of the EASports college game.
Most importantly, it is a great showcase for Little Rock and Arkansas as coaches and their wives from all over the country have raved about the hospitality and how they are treated.
And it’s developed into quite an indicator of the rising stars in the profession.
Four of the five finalists this year served under head coaches who won the Broyles Award as assistants — Duke’s David Cutcliffe, Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn and Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher.
Both coaches of teams in the BCS championship game, Malzahn and Fisher, are former Broyles winners.
And this year’s group that included winner Pat Narduzzi of Michigan State, Rhett Lashlee of Auburn, Kurt Roper of Duke, Jeremy Pruitt of Florida State and Phil Montgomery of Baylor is rated overall one of the best yet.
Last year’s winner, defensive coordinator Bob Diaco of Notre Dame, has been named the new head coach at Connecticut.
Narduzzi, at 42, was the oldest of the finalists.
All are considered bright, young coaches.
Four are son’s of coaches and are following in their fathers’ footsteps.
But what is inspiring is three — Lashlee, Pruitt and Montgomery — began their coaching careers as high school assistants and not at the largest high schools in their area.
They blossomed through the grassroots. They’ve mowed grass, lined fields and adjusted equipment. They know about life in the trenches. They experience the complexities of teen-agers and young men.
While the Broyles Award is a glamor award, these assistants have seen the less-glamrous side.
They have endured and have been rewarded.
Although the real rewards were expressed by an experience by Lashlee in watching Auburn win the Southeastern Conference championship after not winning a conference game last year.
“It was walking into that locker room (after the SEC title game) and to see the looks on those kids’ faces about how they did something together than no one thought they could do,” he said. “That is why we coach.”
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 501-505-1235 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on twitter @dmaclcd)