The BIG SHOOTOUT
The Untold Story
During a break in our interview with the former Arkansas Head Coach Frank Broyles, he asks, ”Do you really want to know why the University of Arkansas left the Southwest Conference?” Unknown to any of us on the set our cameraman had flipped the switch and started recording. Broyles goes on to say, “Is the camera off? Turn it off for just a minute.” We excitedly said“Yes sir.”
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“Mike, you better listen to this voicemail from Donita,”…
said Bill Burnett, motioning to his cell phone with his eyes. The more Bill struggled to smother his expression of concern, the more it tried to make a run for it. We eagerly awaited the scheduled 9:30 a.m. arrival of Coach Broyles but I suspected my perfect day was about to make a mad dash. My suspicion was instantly rewarded.
Bill played the message from Coach’s longtime assistant on the speaker of his cell phone. “Now Bill, you know Coach doesn’t really want to do this interview and he doesn’t like some of these controversial questions,” said Donita, her words climbing into the surrounding space, also ushering in the heavy scent of anxiety in the conference room. It was 9:20 a.m.
She referred to the list of questions I’d previously provided. I would learn later from Terry Don Phillips, a defensive lineman for the ’69 Hogs and at the time Clemson athletic director, that Donita protected Coach Broyles with the intensity of a mother cub, often screening negative emails and voicemails before they would reach the Coach. “You better call him. I’m not sure he’s coming in,” said Donita. Click. Internal panic.
Coach answered on the first ring, words soaring from the small black box at a high decibel level. The massive football stadium named after the legendary coach loomed in the distance, imitating a giant rendering of itself. Maybe Coach was speaking into the stadium PA?
Coach spoke in a thick as molasses Georgia drawl, but his tone appeared to indicate a man genuinely riled. He would not address any of the controversial issues, though he never mentioned exactly which questions were stirring him to a boil. He would discuss only the accomplishments of the ’69 Razorback team. No negative stuff. In my mind’s eye, each spoken word grew more aggressive in nature than the one before.
Toward the end of our April 2010 interview with Coach Broyles, he surprised us with a question. “Do you guys want to know why we really left the Southwest conference?” Now bear in mind Coach was not referring to the present day Big 12 but the old Southwest conference which existed of seven Texas universities and the Razorbacks.
—From the Book THE BIG SHOOTOUT - The Untold Story of the Game of the Century