FAYETTEVILLE — Although Frank Broyles has passed on, so much of the Arkansas Razorbacks’ grand tradition lives on.
A full three-sports Saturday exemplified the treasured past in present tense of Arkansas retired Hall of Fame coaches attending Razorbacks events.
Shortly after coach Dave Van Horn’s baseball Razorbacks concluded their annual Media Day Saturday morning, it was reported that Norm DeBriyn had dropped by Baum Stadium to watch them practice.
The founder of Razorbacks baseball as we know it, DeBriyn, coaching the Razorbacks from 1970-2002, brought the Arkansas program from the virtually irrelevant independent he inherited on an American Legion field into a Southwest Conference and Southeastern Conference champion and four times to the College World Series with one national runner-up and moving the Razorbacks first to George Cole Field and finally to Baum, still the zenith of on campus college baseball stadiums.
At the Razorback Invitational Track meet at the Randal Tyson Indoor track, Arkansas men’s coach Chris Bucknam inquired if I had seen yet “Coach Mac’ yet because he’s in the building.
In fact I just had seen and chatted with John McDonnell, the Arkansas men’s track coach with the unparalleled in any sport 40 national championships and 84 conference championships in cross country, indoor and outdoor track who took a program without a track facility during the 1970s into one blessed with the world-class Randal Tyson Indoor Track and John McDonnell Field Outdoor Track that have hosted NCAA Championships.
And at Saturday evening’s Arkansas basketball victory at Walton Arena over Oklahoma State, retired Hall of Fame basketball coaches Nolan Richardson, Arkansas’ national champion winner whose burgeoning program built Walton Arena during his 1985-2002 tenure, and Eddie Sutton, Arkansas’ coach from 1974-1985 who put Arkansas and Barnhill Arena on the national map and the Triplets, Sidney Moncrief, Ron Brewer and Marvin Delph, into the national vocabulary on Arkansas’ Final Four team of 1978, attended.
Not requiring last names to be Arkansas recognized, Nolan, is a regular visitor to Razorbacks games and always applauded when shown on the big video screen.
Eddie, in a wheelchair now since suffering strokes but still avidly basketball interested, also was appreciatively applauded as he watched the two teams he took to Final Fours. He coached Oklahoma State, where his son, Scott, is an assistant, after coaching Arkansas and Kentucky and before achieving his career 800th victory coaching the University of San Francisco.
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson, a 17-year Arkansas assistant to Richardson and a former player under Richardson at Tulsa, a city where Sutton remains legendary as a high school coach and Oklahoma State graduate in nearby Stillwater before he coached Arkansas and OSU, seemed as appreciative of their presence as he was of Saturday’s victory.
Arkansas survived two Oklahoma State misses after Daniel Gafford’s tip-in of Anton Beard’s miss with 16 seconds left put the Hogs up 66-65, the final score of their SEC vs. Big 12 challenge victory.
“Oh, it was fabulous,” Anderson said of the Sutton and Richardson presence. “I heard them over the speaker call their names out and you can just tell by the tremendous applause, the standing ovation, what these guys meant to Arkansas basketball.”
And to him personally.
“Having an opportunity to come here with coach Richardson, after coach Sutton, obviously he set everything in motion with the Triplets and just the winning way,” Anderson said. “The toughness and Barnhill, one of the toughest places to play. Sellout after sellout. So for them to come and be here on this occasion, and of course I worked with coach Richardson and I experienced that (Barnhill) with him.”
It brought the past to a present tense bound to remain for the future just like the legacy that Broyles passed on for his 50 years serving Arkansas as either the Razorbacks football coach athletic director or both.
“To have those guys here, Hall of Fame coaches, that is really, really special,” Anderson said. “And it was special to our guys as well.”
It was heartbreaking yet heartwarming special that before Saturday’s national anthem, a moment of silence was observed on the Jan. 27, 2001 anniversary of the Oklahoma State plane crash.
One of several planes returning Sutton’s Cowboys from a Big 12 game at Colorado, crashed killing the crew and eight players and support staff.
“I heard coach Sutton would be here and obviously today is the day that we commemorate that,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton said postgame. “So our thoughts and prayers are always with those families today and always. I appreciate Arkansas acknowledging that as well. Very classy by them.”