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Broyles looks back on integration of Razorbacks

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP)

Flanked by several of the school's finest black athletes, former Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles recalled the man who broke through one of the university's biggest racial barriers.

His name was Jon Richardson, and he was the Razorbacks' first black scholarship football player.

``He was an outstanding running back,'' said Broyles, who was the football coach when Richardson played at Arkansas from 1970-72. ``He and his family certainly, certainly had a lot of decisions to make, but I'll never forget when they told me he was going to be a Razorback. We were so pleased and so proud.''

Broyles was a featured guest at an event celebrating four decades of integration in Razorbacks athletics. He was joined by former Arkansas football player Muskie Harris as the main speakers. Harris played football for the Razorbacks during the 1970s.

Several other former athletes were also on hand, including basketball star Marvin Delph, who led Arkansas to the Final Four in 1978, and football player Leotis Harris.

``I thought it was a good event. I thought coach Broyles did a great job in acknowledging the history and the accomplishment of the African-Americans to the University of Arkansas,'' Delph said. ``I don't think the event would have been as meaningful had he not been here.''

Broyles spent a good deal of time paying respect to Richardson, a Little Rock product who was honored posthumously as part of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame's Class of 2008. Richardson played for the Razorbacks shortly after Jerry LeVias' success at Southern Methodist helped speed up integration on the football field.

``When SMU signed LeVias ... he became a star, and that opened up the eyes of everybody,'' Broyles said.

Broyles also took time to praise former basketball coach Nolan Richardson, who was hired when Broyles was athletic director and led Arkansas to the national championship in 1994.

``Nolan was a great asset to us. For 17 years, he was our basketball coach, and every one of them, we're proud of,'' Broyles said. ``I wanted the best coach. I didn't care who it was.''

Broyles' comments on Richardson were noteworthy because of the way the coach's tenure at Arkansas ended. He was fired in 2002 and later lost a discrimination lawsuit against the school.

During that trial, Broyles acknowledged he had used a racial slur at a banquet in 2000. He testified that he was repeating a question by somebody else about the differences of slurs used by blacks and whites.

Harris said he was thrilled Broyles came to speak ``because of all the negative things that happened after him and Nolan broke up.''

``We were here before Nolan ever came here, and people needed to know that this is how far we have grown, and that's just one chapter,'' Harris said after the event. ``Nobody died and nobody was hung over it.''

Broyles said he was grateful for the invitation.

``I'm 85. When I went to school and when I started coaching and all, there was complete segregation - everything. We've changed,'' he said.

Tagged: Arkansas

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