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Athlon sat down with legendary Razorbacks coach and administrator Frank Broyles.
-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)
Athlon Sports' Braden Gall had a chance to sit down with legendary Arkansas Razorbacks head coach and athletic director Frank Broyles. The former Hogs head coach touched on the current college football landscape, what the future holds for Arkansas and the SEC, the job Bobby Petrino has done and some of his favorite memories from coaching the planet’s greatest game.
Braden Gall: What does it mean to you to be involved in the Legends Poll?
FB: I am very pleased to be on the Legends Poll. I enjoy it thoroughly because our coaches discuss the teams they watch and report on the ones they are responsible for. To hear the coaches explain and rate the teams they watch is a joy as a former coach. It's wonderful to hear them and the effort they put into understanding the potential of the teams they are representing and scouting for the poll.
BG: Have LSU, Alabama and Oklahoma separated themselves from the rest of the nation?
FB: Not really. I think if you look at the top ten teams, all of them are undefeated. And scheduling is the big factor today. It is one of the biggest changes in college football as coaches' wishes have been accepted by the Athletic Directors so that the conference games don’t start until after the first three or four games. And all of the first four games, except maybe one, are warm-up games. If you look at the Top 25, 19 of them are still undefeated and that is scheduling. So when you look at the teams that they have played, most coaches have gotten their way and they play non-conference games and then 7 or 9 conference games at the end so at this point it has mostly been warm-up games. So what you are voting on are teams that have been playing against teams that they should beat 19 of 20 times. So how do you tell who is first and who is second? You can’t at this stage of the game.
BG: What is the biggest difference scheme-wise, Xs and Os, in college football today from when you were playing and coaching?
FB: The rule change to allow the offensive linemen to use their hands on pass protection has changed college football the most dramatically in the 50-plus years I have been involved with the sport. Because in my first years of coaching, the offensive hands had to stay next to the chest, and if they separated from the chest it was a 15-yard penalty. So teams didn’t throw the drop-back pass because they got penalties and couldn’t get any consistency. So they would use play-action passes. Then the officials changed the rules so that the offensive hands could leave the body and go into the chest of the defensive man. You can’t hold him but you can hit him with your hands, which is a tremendous difference in pass protections. A total difference.
So the passing game has changed dramatically, plus the speed has changed. Back then we would have one Lance Alworth who could run like a deer. Today, Arkansas has six or seven players as fast as Alworth was. And so what do you do? You force teams to cover the width and depth of the field on the snap of the ball. In my day, you didn’t have to cover the width because there wasn’t enough speed for them to put them out there as flankers. Therefore you were playing in a much smaller area. You didn’t have the speed to get it out there in the flats and be a threat to the defense. So the speed has changed the game. Plus the rules people wisely changed the pass protection rules where you could legitimately block for a drop-back pass. So the college game has caught up in scoring with the pros.
BG: Does the spread offense and the dual-threat quarterback level the playing field in college football?
FB: Yes, it starts with the quarterback. If you snap the ball 75 times, he is getting the ball 75 times! So the quarterbacks we see today who can throw the ball and run, with the speed we have at the wide receivers positions now, are forcing the defense to cover the width and depth of the field at the snap of the ball. The four wide receiver sets force you to cover the width and depth at the snap of the ball.
BG: What is the decision-making process like when a team decides to change conferences, like Arkansas did in the 1990s?
FB: We saw that the SWC, because the NFL in Dallas and Houston were taking the fans, was not going to be the SWC for much longer. And we knew that Texas and Texas A&M had the political strength to move to some other conference and we would be left out as an independent. So we applied to the SEC with permission from our board of directors. We told the SEC that if they were to expand and ask us to join that we would accept immediately. We were borders to Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana so we fit into the geography of the conference and that we would come immediately. So when they decided to expand, they gave us a call and we accepted immediately.
BG: What do you think about the overall direction and trajectory of college football and these larger conferences?
FB: I hate to see the rivalries of these great teams leave for the TV money. I think the SEC with the rivalries of Mississippi, Alabama, LSU and Arkansas, etc. should stay intact even though we don’t have the big TV cities. We need to keep the conferences level and the playing field level for the teams in our conferences, and we have been able to do that in the SEC.
BG: Is there anything we can do to fix the violations and sanctions within college football or are we stuck with the off the field issues forever?
FB: There are always going to be some people who will bend the rules, and it's unfortunate. AD's and school officials have to be sure when they hire somebody that the coaches know that if you get put on probation that you lose your job. That would make coaches realize that we are here for a level playing field. All we want is a level playing field for all the schools to have an equal chance to be competitive where we have balance. Which we have today, we have great balance today in college football.
BG: What are some of your favorite college towns and stadiums from your past?
FB: When I started my coaching career as an assistant coach at Baylor and we had to play Texas in Austin and that was the toughest place we ever had to play. Playing the Longhorns in Austin was one of the more difficult places to play. I know in the SEC wherever you go, it’s going to be tough, because of the state pride. It's about the same now as it was back then. And that is what makes college football so exciting. When you go play on the road, you are playing in front of a sellout and you get some of your own fans in there too. We have about 4,000-5,000 fans that travel to see the Razorbacks in road and non-conference games. We hold back about 5,000 seats for visiting fans in Fayetteville – and that is a long way from everything. But that is just the rivalries we have and when you have that involved in the game, it's exciting. It helps recruiting and the fan base grow and prosper.
BG: What do you think of the job that Bobby Petrino has done?
FB: He has done a sensational job. His dad was a college coach, and so he has been involved in coaching since he was five years old. The one thing I always say about Bobby Petrino is he is not looking to experiment. He has his game plan and it’s been tried and tested throughout his career. He goes out, puts it into place and makes it work wherever he goes.
Check out other Athlon Sports Legends Interviews:
Air Force's Fisher DeBerry
Georgia's Vince Dooley
West Virginia's Don Nehlen
Washington's Don James
BYU's LaVell Edwards
Arizona State's Frank Kush
Arkansas' Frank Broyles
Special thanks to Athlon Sports partner The Legends Poll