Arkansans know their football.
Since the first football game was played on November 6, 1869 between Rutgers and Princeton, football fans have battled over whose team is better, and which team has the best players and why for over 100 years.
The most overlooked question in college football—and perhaps the most important—is what state is the most influential. What makes your criteria: the most Heisman Trophy winners per state, the most first-round NFL draft picks or the coaches that got those players to their prominent positions?
Based on coaching, would you believe Arkansas may be the most influential college football state of all time?
Penn State fans will argue about the legacy of Joe Pa. Florida State fans will “Tomahawk” you to death with Bobby Bowden, all while Bill Walsh and Cardinal fans will nickel and dime you down the field in the West Coast offense. But if one looks closely at the coaches born in the state of Arkansas or those that cut their teeth coaching at the University of Arkansas, one might change one's mind.
Here are a few coaches that have made their mark in the world of college football after passing through the great state of Arkansas.
Paul “Bear” Bryant
Who is arguably the greatest college football coach of all time?
Most fans—especially those who support Alabama—will tell you Paul “Bear” Bryant is the end-all, be-all, and for good reason. Coach Bryant won six national championships at Alabama and 15 conference titles between the SEC and Southwest Conference.
When Bryant retired, he owned a 323-85-17 coaching record: That is a winning percentage of 76. After his passing in 1983, Super Bowl XVII was dedicated in his honor. The National Coach of the Year Award is even named in his honor.
Three coaches that got their start under Coach Bryant went on to win National Championships— Danny Ford, Gene Stallings and Howard Schnellenberger. Other notable head coaches that got their start under Bear Bryant include David Cutcliffe, Jackie Sherrill, Pat Dye, Sylvester Croom, Jim Owens, Charles McClendon and Neil Callaway.
What does Coach Bryant have to do with Arkansas? He was born in Fordyce, Arkansas.
Alabama and college football fans, you are welcome.
The next great Arkansas coach would have to be Frank Broyles.
Coach Broyles was the head coach at the University of Arkansas for 19 years, compiling a record of 149-62-6 (69 winning percentage), making him the all-time winningest coach in school history.
Coach Broyles won a national championship in 1964 and seven Southwest Conference titles from 1958-1976.
His showdown against the University of Texas in 1969 was considered “The Game of the Century” before this year’s Alabama and LSU teams were even a consideration. There was so much national attention on the game that President Nixon showed up in Fayetteville to watch.
Broyles was in the broadcast booth with Keith Jackson on ABC from 1977-1985 influencing generations of college football fans watching the games at home.
In 1996, college football started the Frank Broyles Award to honor the top college football assistant in the nation. Past winners include Randy Shannon, Norm Chow, Gene Chizik and Gus Malzahn.
Broyles helped Johnny Majors (Tennessee), Joe Gibbs (Washington Redskins), Barry Switzer (Oklahoma and the Dallas Cowboys) and Jimmy Johnson (University of Miami and the Dallas Cowboys) all get their start in coaching. Between the four coaches, they have won five college football national championships and six Super Bowls.
Of the players Coach Broyles mentored, over 30 have gone on to coach at the college or pro levels.
As the athletic director for Arkansas in 1992, Coach Broyles led Arkansas to college football’s first mega-conference when they departed the now defunct Southwest Conference for the Southeastern Conference.
Lou Holtz succeeded Coach Broyles in 1977 as the head coach at Arkansas after stops at William and Mary, North Carolina State and a one-year stint as the New York Jets head coach. Coach Broyles gave the embattled coach an opportunity to get back into college coaching before taking Notre Dame to a national championship in 1988.
Holtz won the Paul “Bear” Bryant Award in 1977 after leading Arkansas to a 1978 Orange Bowl victory over Oklahoma. Had Oklahoma won that game, it would have been the third national championship in four years for the Sooners. OU was coached by Barry Switzer.
Younger generations may only know of Coach Holtz from his work on ESPN’s College Football Score Board and College Football Live ,or his time as South Carolina’s head coach (1999-2004).
Recruited by Broyles and played under Lou Holtz, Houston Nutt not only was born in Arkansas and played for the Razorbacks, he was also the head coach at the University of Arkansas from 1998-2007. Coach Nutt won three SEC West titles and was named SEC Coach of the Year three times.
In 1998 Coach Nutt was awarded coach of the year by The Football News for leading Arkansas to a 9-3 record after being picked to finish last in the SEC West during the preseason.
Coach Nutt had eight winning seasons while at Arkansas and two as the head coach at Ole Miss. Nutt’s teams have appeared in seven New Year’s Day bowl games.
He coached Darren McFadden to back-to-back runner-up finishes in the Heisman Trophy Award—2006 and 2007.
Jimmy Johnson played his college ball at the University of Arkansas before becoming the defensive coordinator under Broyles from 1973-1976. Johnson went on to be the head coach at Oklahoma State University (1979-1983), and University of Miami (1984-1988) before going to the NFL.
Coach Johnson won the 1987 national championship at Miami before taking over as the Dallas Cowboys head coach in 1989. While in Dallas, Johnson won the Super Bowl in 1992 and 1993. The foundation Johnson laid for the Cowboys set up another Super Bowl win in 1995.
Johnson’s coaching tree includes native Arkansans Tommy Tuberville and Butch Davis. Johnson also helped start the careers of Norv Turner, Dave Wannstedt and Dave Campo.
Randy Shannon was the starting linebacker for Johnson’s national championship team. Shannon was the head coach at University of Miami from 2007-2010.
As the head coach at University of Oklahoma from 1973-1988, Barry Switzer had a college record of 157-29-4, winning three national championships (1974, 1975 and 1985) and won 12 Big Eight Conference Titles.
Coach Switzer won 82 percent of his games at OU. His teams finished in the Top 10 of the AP Poll 12 times during his tenure.
He won Super Bowl XXX in 1995 as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys.
Switzer played for the Razorbacks from 1956-1960 before taking a position as an assistant from 1961-1965 with the Hogs.
Coach Switzer was born in Crossett, Arkansas.
Ken Hatfield was born in Helena, Arkansas. He played at Arkansas under Frank Broyles, was the head coach at Arkansas from 1984-1989 compiling a record of 55-17 with three 10 winning seasons—1985, 1988 and 1989.
Hatfield was also the head coach at Air Force, Clemson and Rice.
Coach Davis was a defensive end for the Razorbacks before starting his coaching career at Fayetteville High School in Arkansas.
Coach Davis helped turn the University of Miami program around and laid down the tracks for success for Larry Coker and their BCS Championship winning team in 2001. Davis was the head coach at Miami from 1995-2000 before taking over as the head coach for the Cleveland Browns (2001-2004).
Davis was recently the head coach at North Carolina—2007-2010.
He won three Big East Championships while at Miami—1995, 1996 and 2000.
Butch Davis recruited Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Reggie Wayne, Clinton Portis, Bryant McKinnie, Antrel Rolle, Sean Taylor and Jeremey Shockey—just to name a few of the more noteworthy NFL players under his mentorship.
Coach Fry got his big coaching break when Frank Broyles brought him on staff as his offensive backfield coach in 1961. After Arkansas was the Southwest Conference co-champions that same year, SMU hired Fry as their head coach for the 1962 season.
Fry is most remembered as the head coach for the Iowa Hawkeyes (1979-1998). Fry won one Southwest Conference title (1966), one Missouri Valley Conference title (1973) and three Big Ten titles (1981, 1985 and 1990).
Coach Majors may be considered “Mr. Rocky Top,” but before he became the head coach at Tennessee he was an assistant under Frank Broyles from 1964-1967. Majors parlayed his time at Arkansas to a head coaching position at Iowa State (1968-1972) before two stints at the University of Pittsburgh (1973-1976 and 1993-1996).
Majors won the SEC three times (1985, 1989 and 1990). His coaching record for the Volunteers was 116-62-8. In 1985 his Tennessee team finished the season ranked No. 4—his highest post season ranking.
Head Coaches Born in Arkansas
Fred Akers was born in Blytheville, Arkansas. He was a running back, kicker and punter for the Hogs before becoming a coach.
Akers is best remembered as being the head coach at University of Texas from 1977-1986. He also had head coaching jobs at Wyoming (1975-1976) and Purdue (1987-1990).
Akers twice led the Longhorns through undefeated seasons only to lose their bowl game each time—1977 and 1983.
Gus Malzahn, from Jonesboro, Arkansas, was the offensive coordinator for Arkansas, Tulsa and Auburn before taking the head coaching position at Arkansas State.
He won the 2010 BCS National Championship as the offensive coordinator for Auburn.
As offensive coordinator, Darren McFadden had a runner-up finish in the 2006 Heisman Trophy Award and in 2010 quarterback Cam Newton won the Heisman while at Auburn.
Coach Strong was born in Batesville, Arkansas and attended University of Central Arkansas before embarking on his coaching career. Strong made a name for himself as a top SEC defensive coordinator at South Carolina (1999-2001) and Florida (2002-2009) before taking the head coaching job at Louisville in 2010.
The “Riverboat Gambler” was born in Camden, Arkansas and played safety at Southern Arkansas before beginning his coaching career at Arkansas State.
Coach Tuberville has been the head coach at Ole Miss (1995-1998) and Auburn (1999-2008) before taking the Texas Tech position in 2010. While coaching in the SEC Tuberville won one SEC Conference Title and five SEC Western Conference Division Titles.
In 2004 he led the Tigers to a 13-0 record. That same year he won the Paul “Bear” Bryant award. He was twice named SEC Coach of the Year—1997 and 2004.
Coach Hill was an assistant on the Razorback staff from 1992-2000. He played collegiately at Ouachita Baptist (NAIA) in Arkansas. He was the head coach of San Jose State from 2001-2004 before returning to Ouachita Baptist as the school’s president.
Coaching Assistants at University of Arkansas
Running backs coach 1971-1972 and three-time Super Bowl winner with the Washington Redskins.
Quarterback coach from 2008-2009, offensive coordinator from 2009-2010 and now the head coach at University of Alabama-Birmingham.
Defensive coordinator from 1977-1979, parlayed stint at Arkansas into head coaching job at North Carolina State. He is considered the “father” of the Tampa Two defense. Kiffin is the current defensive coordinator at University of Southern California.
Pete Carroll got his first big coaching break as a graduate assistant coaching the secondary at Arkansas under then head coach Lou Holtz. On staff was Monte Kiffin, who taught Carroll the “4-3 Under” defense and the principal of the Tampa Two defense.
Carroll was the 2003 National Coach of the Year while at USC.
Arkansas’ Influences in other Areas of Football
Jerry Jones grew up in North Little Rock, Arkansas and played on Frank Broyles' 1964 national championship team. In 1989 Jones bought the Dallas Cowboys and immediately made waves throughout the NFL by firing legendary head coach Tom Landry.
Who is the most influential Arkansas coach?
Jones has taken “America’s Team” to new heights in popularity while winning three Super Bowls as the team owner—1992, 1993 and 1995.
He is also the general manager for the Dallas Cowboys.
Pat Summerall was a place kicker, tight end and defensive end at Arkansas from 1949-1951. He spent 10 years in the NFL before working NFL telecasts in 1962. Summerall and John Madden became the definitive broadcast voices for NFL football covering 22 years.
In 1994 the Pro Football Hall of Fame awarded Summerall the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award for his contributions to football through radio and television.
From USC to Tennesse and Seattle to Miami, the coaching tree continues to spread its influence on college and pro football, making Arkansas the most influential state in college football.