Entertainment » Jim Harris

You couldn't make this up

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Remember in 2002 when Nolan Richardson fired off what amounted to a “pay me and I’ll leave” statement in Lexington, Ky., the one that directly finished him as University of Arkansas basketball coach just a few days later? Well, UA athletic director Frank Broyles, who along with UA Chancellor John White delighted in giving Richardson his walking papers, hasn’t had a “pay me and I’ll leave” moment, though apparently many Razorback followers wish he would. But last week, Broyles did have one of those scratch-your-head-over-what-he-says events that seem to come more regularly these days, and this may jump-start him toward retirement sooner rather than later.

Among the gems that made Razorback message boards barely hours after Broyles uttered them at the Dallas chapter of the Arkansas Alumni Association, and which I confirmed through three people who attended the meeting:

•In trying to dodge a question about which experts he called on that said Gus Malzahn’s hurry-up, no-huddle offense wouldn’t work in the Southeastern Conference, Broyles said, “I’ve been coaching for 60 years [my italics], and I know that if you have the best players, you can run any offense.” I checked to make sure he hadn’t said, “I’ve been around football for 60 years,” because that would be true. Worse for the UA, though, would be if he really believes he’s been “coaching for 60 years,” because that would confirm what everyone believes: that Broyles meddles too much in his coaches’ work.

•Broyles and two audience members had some give-and-take about the direction of the program, why Malzahn was allowed to leave for Tulsa, and more. When one questioned Broyles’ claim that Malzahn called the plays last season, and that person said Broyles was lying about it, Broyles called that person a liar and unaware of what really went on with the playcalling. Actually, semantics are at work here, and Broyles certainly knows it. Malzahn “called” the plays, as in he sent in the signals for each play. They gradually became Houston Nutt’s run-and-run-again plays as the season went on. Most were not from Malzahn’s playbook, albeit a high school one. There is a difference of opinion among people at the meeting in how heated the exchange got, but that final tit-for-tat ended Broyles’ question-and-answer portion of the meeting. To his credit, unlike his head coach lately, he was willing to field questions even though the meeting organizers didn’t plan on it.

•Broyles brought a list to the meeting that he had the UA sports information director, Kevin Trainor, type up that outlined many accomplishments in 2006, concluding with “Does this look like a program in disarray?” (See “Smart Talks” on page 4). Obviously Broyles already was trying to dispel the perception that, indeed, the program is in disarray, and we know perception is reality in these and many other parts. Read some of the latest national columns on ESPN.com, CBSSportsline.com or Sportingnews.com.

• In showing with another diagram that Arkansas ranks in the lower echelon of the SEC in revenue and budget (ninth, he said), Broyles told the 120 or so people at the gathering that Arkansas “couldn’t afford to have a top coach.” I’m not sure if that was an unintended jab at Houston Nutt or not, but I would agree that the UA currently doesn’t have a top coach. Arkansas, however, is paying close to top dollar for its current defensive coordinator and new offensive coordinator.

• Half his speech was designed to prop up Houston Nutt with the Dallas crowd, I’m told. Included in Nutt’s achievements, according to Broyles, was a 400 percent rise in money from concessions sales during his nine years. I know that Nutt’s run-first offense makes people thirst for some semblance of a college passing game, but who knew it made them run for an $8 Coke in a souvenir mug?

• Broyles said he expected the widely reported December meeting with the three Springdale parents, told Nutt to keep it from happening and told Nutt to have Malzahn stop it from occurring. He said that as athletic director he didn’t have time for such meetings, and he held Malzahn responsible for it happening because of his longtime relationship with the players and parents.

• Broyles said Arkansas lost its last three games this season not because of anything it did on offense or defense, but because of special teams failures. When the questioner said he thought the special teams coach should be fired, Broyles clearly seemed to agree and said, “I hope there are changes in special teams, too.” His head coach has said he hoped there would not be any changes in the football staff. Of course, this was before Malzahn left for Tulsa after finding out that Nutt was, indeed, bringing in a co-offensive coordinator to take over the playcalling. So much for truthfulness on that end.

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