Ex-Arkansas coach returns to face former team
(Eds: Updates with quotes, details. With AP Photos.)
By JOHN ZENOR
AP Sports Writer
JACKSONVILLE, Ala. -- Former Arkansas coach Jack Crowe and ex-Razorbacks athletic director Frank Broyles have history -- a fiery past that was hottest when the two redheads clashed a couple of decades ago.
The confrontation proved to be Crowe's downfall as a major college coach.
Now the 65-year-old Crowe is returning to Arkansas. He will lead his FCS Jacksonville State Gamecocks into Razorback Stadium for the season opener against No. 10 Arkansas on Sept. 1, four days shy of the 20th anniversary of the toughest weekend of Crowe's coaching career. An embarrassing opening loss by Crowe's Razorbacks to The Citadel on Sept. 5, 1992, was followed by a heated confrontation with Boyles the next day.
"It ended with me saying, `Frank, I'm going home to have lunch. If you want me to be your football coach, call me," Crowe recalled. "And he didn't call me."
Their relationship survived the encounter. A framed photograph hanging in Crowe's Jacksonville State office pays homage to it.
"To a fine coach who has paid the price of success," it reads, and is signed by Broyles, who sent Crowe the photograph after the Razorbacks won the Southeastern Conference Western Division in 2006.
Crowe said they have visited several times since then, but have never talked about the 1992 blowup following the freakish ending to game that left an SEC team on the short end of a 10-3 score to The Citadel.
"It was about as fruitcake a game as you could ever ... They never crossed our 50," said Crowe, who went 9-15 with the Razorbacks. "It was the first game after they changed the NCAA rule that you could pick up a fumble and advance it. They picked up a fumble and ran it in for a touchdown. Only touchdown they got."
It was enough. The next morning, Crowe arrived at work like usual and was summoned into Broyles' office by an assistant athletic director.
It got ugly, the two caught in the heat of emotion.
"He was just shaken," Crowe said. "I wish I had found a way maybe to call him that night (after the game). Maybe if I could have found a way to just talk to him. I should have called him. I shouldn't have let him have to go with so much uncertainty for so long. He was shaken. He was a great communicator and a very inspiring person. He was always on his game. Then he wasn't on his game. He was mad but it was out of emotion."
When it was over, the call never came. Broyles introduced defensive coordinator Joe Kines as interim coach the following morning.
"It was a whirlwind," Kines recalled. "I got into the office to break down tape, and then all this happened over a 6-8 hour period. It was all just a blur."
Kines, a former Alabama defensive coordinator who lives in Tuscaloosa, said he has talked to Crowe several times over the years and been to a couple of Jacksonville State games.
"IQ-wise, Jack's at the top of the list," he said.
The 87-year-old Broyles declined to be interviewed for the story through an assistant. He will be at the Jacksonville State game, the assistant said.
Crowe said he never heard the words "You're fired." Just that there would be an announcement the following morning.
"I came back in the building and called my coaches together for about 30 minutes," he said. "Basically I told them, `Frank Broyles is taking this football team back.'
"Two of them started crying."
He said he got letters from players for The Citadel and even one of the SEC officials working the game.
Crowe still speaks highly of Broyles and said he's visited the retired AD in his office multiple times since the firing.
Crowe spent the next three seasons as Baylor's offensive coordinator, including the 1994 Southwest Conference championship season.
He got out of coaching for five years when he decided he didn't want to be anyone's assistant any longer. Crowe worked in acquisitions for billionaire Warren Stephens' financial services firm in Little Rock, Ark., before taking over the Gamecocks in 2000.
Crowe's staff in `92 included future Arkansas and Mississippi head coach Houston Nutt, who was on the opposing end of a major upset two years ago. The Gamecocks beat Nutt and Ole Miss 49-48 in double-overtime.
"I walked over there and I got to him and he just smiled," said Crowe, who has led the Gamecocks to three Ohio Valley Conference titles. "He said, `I am so happy for you, coach."
Beating Arkansas would be a much bigger surprise.
The teams' first meeting came about after Crowe called then-coach Bobby Petrino, a longtime acquaintance, and requested the game. Jacksonville State will receive $450,000.
Crowe expects plenty of nostalgic moments on his return to Fayetteville, but no bitterness.
"When they march that `A' out there, I'll know the fight song, I tell you that," Crowe said. "It'll be ringing in my ear.
"There's nothing but goodwill. I just wish we weren't playing such a great football team."
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index
MORE COLLEGE FOOTBALL HEADLINES
- Lunt: Gundy lifted restrictions, but too late
- Ex-PSU players support Paternos' lawsuit
- Navy to charge football players in rape case
- Sources: Southern Miss won't renew AD's pact