We start at either the beginning or the end of the story: Missouri players, fresh off of a last-second win over Kansas in Don Faurot’s final game, carrying the retiring legend off of the field.
It is one of Mizzou’s indelible images. For two decades, Faurot had led the football program from either near or, during war time, far, and for most of that time he had been in charge of the entire athletic department. He had established a solid footing for Mizzou’s athletic program, in part because of the brutal non-conference road trips he signed up for, and he briefly made Mizzou a regional football power with conference titles, bowl bids, big wins, and offensive innovation.
He also trailed off dramatically. His most earnest belief — that a state university’s football roster should be filled by in-state kids almost exclusively — got him into trouble when he couldn’t (or wouldn’t) keep enough in-state talent in state.
Since finishing 1949 with a Gator Bowl appearance and top-20 finish, Mizzou had gone just 26-41-3 over his final seven seasons in charge. Faurot won just six of his final 25 games, and two of those were over awful Kansas teams. One was against lower-division North Dakota State.
It was time to move Mizzou forward with someone else in charge. And it was up to Athletic Director Faurot to find Coach Faurot’s replacement. In essence, Athletic Director Faurot would help to define Coach Faurot’s legacy.
He made a hell of a choice. Twice.
Faruot’s primary list of candidates in 1956:
- Mizzou Assistant Hi Simmons, who had led Mizzou Baseball to a national title in 1954
- Mizzou Assistant Hoot Betty, line coach extraordinaire and 1936 Mizzou letterman under Faurot
- Mizzou Assistant Clay Cooper, future Mizzou Hall of Famer and all-around big-time personality
- Bowling Green coach Doyt Perry, former Ohio State assistant with Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler
- Michigan State assistant Bob Devaney
- Frank Broyles, 32-year old Georgia Tech assistant
According to Bob Broeg, Faurot first offered the job to Perry but was rebuffed. Perry decided to stay at Bowling Green, where he would win a small-school national title in 1959 and coach until 1964. Faurot gave a long look at Devaney — who would end up at Nebraska in 1962 and quickly establish national title bona fides — and you know a loyal guy like Faurot also probably gave long, hard thought to hiring each of his assistants as well. But he was fixated on Broyles.
The SEC Player of the Year in 1944, Broyles led Georgia Tech to four straight bowls as Yellow Jacket quarterback and had joined Bobby Dodd's Tech staff in 1951. In six seasons as an assistant in Atlanta, Broyles had seen six more bowl games and a national title in 1952.
One problem: Dodd was not yet even 50 years old and looked to remain as Georgia Tech head coach for quite a while. Broyles was going to have to go elsewhere for head coaching experience. He saw in Missouri a lot of the same ambitions and goals as Georgia Tech, and as a small-town boy from Decatur, Ga., he found a lot to like in Columbia, and in Faurot himself. From Broeg:
[S]o many big-name coaches told Don how fortunate he was. Actually, Broyles, the personable Presbyterian deacon of Scotch-Irish-German descent, must have reminded the Old Master of Ol' Mizzou of himself. Frank did not smoke or drink or swear, either.
Like Faurot, he was a dynamo, but better organized or, at least, better able to delegate authority because he had come from Georgia Tech where Dodd "invented" the modern concept of chairman-of-the-board status for the head coach.
Once Broyles was hired, Simmons left to focus on baseball, Betty quit coaching, and others found other jobs. Broyles brought in his own guys to go along with holdovers like Cooper and John Kadlec:
- Bear Bryant assistant Jerry Claiborne, future Virginia Tech, Maryland and Kentucky head coach, became his defensive coordinator.
- Jim Mackenzie, future Oklahoma head coach, became his line coach.
- Wichita State assistant Merrill Green, former OU star and future high school coaching great, became his backfield coach.
This was a young, hungry, and talented staff, but the amount of talent on the field was debatable. In the end, Don Faurot's biggest strength as a coach — his loyalty, particularly to the state of Missouri — had also been his biggest weakness.
Broyles did inherit a few talented pieces:
- Sophomore quarterback (and future state senator) Phil Snowden.
- Soon-to-be all-conference fullback Hank Kuhlmann, also a star catcher for Hi Simmons' 1958 College World Series team.
- Star linemen Charlie Rash, Jack Keelan, Frank Czapla, and Merv Johnson. Rash was a future Mizzou hall of famer (and also a good kicker), Czapla would get drafted by the Cleveland Browns, and Johnson would twice interview for the Missouri head coaching position (in 1977 and 1984) while becoming a mainstay on the OU football staff.
Still, team speed was severely lacking, and with games against Bud Wilkinson's Sooners and Bear Bryant's Texas A&M Aggies (the preseason No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country, respectively) on the schedule, Broyles would have to get creative.
Actually, he would have to get conservative.
September 21: Mizzou 7, Vanderbilt 7
Missouri's first game with Broyles at the helm was in Nashville, to take on a Vanderbilt Commodore team that was in the midst of one of its more successful spans under coach Art Guepe.
Even against a less athletic squad like Vandy, Broyles realized he had little discernible athletic advantage. From the opening kick of the season, Broyles' strategy at Missouri was simple: ball control. Mizzou's best weapon? The quick-kicking of Bob Haas.
Missouri had lost nine straight season-openers under Faurot, and while the offense didn't score against Vandy, the defense did the trick in breaking the losing streak. Linebacker Tom Swaney picked off a pass and returned it for a touchdown, leading to a 7-7 tie. It wasn't a win, and Vandy wasn't an amazing team, but they were better than anybody Mizzou had beaten in 1956.
September 28: Mizzou 35, Arizona 13
Next up was a team over which Mizzou could actually lord an athletic advantage. The Border Conference’s Arizona Wildcats were still 20 years from becoming a major-conference program, and they had yet to beat what would have been considered a major conference team in the 1950s.
This wasn't much of a battle. Hank Kuhlmann ran over, around, and through Wildcat defenders, Jerry Curtright raced 81 yards for a touchdown, and in Broyles' first home game, the Tigers coasted.
October 5: No. 5 Texas A&M 28, Mizzou 0
Against Bear Bryant's Texas A&M Aggies, the Tigers would need something more than moxie and quick-kicking. The Aggies had soon-to-be Heisman winner John David Crow, future NFL receptions leader Bobby Joe Conrad, All-American lineman Charlie Krueger, and, of course, head coach Bear Bryant.
Missouri was overmatched, and Broyles knew it. Hell, even Bear Bryant knew it. According to Broeg, the coaches met before the game, and Bryant told Broyles, "I don't see a single athlete on your end of the field, Frank."
It would be a great story to say that Broyles' Davids stood up to Bryant's Goliaths that day, but they very much did not. A&M was simply too big, strong, and fast for Mizzou. With an exciting offense and a merciless defense — they would shut out four of their first six opponents — the Aggies would move to No. 1 in the country by November and were well-positioned for a national title. But as rumors swirled around Bryant and his potential departure to Alabama, A&M lost both focus and its last three games of the season.
Either way, the Aggies were a killing machine in September, and Missouri made the mistake of getting in their way.
October 12: Mizzou 7, SMU 6
The Tigers had no time to recover. They had to make their way to Dallas to face SMU, which had beaten Mizzou eight straight years since a dramatic Mizzou win over Doak Walker's Mustangs in 1948.
SMU was no longer as good as it had been in the Walker years, but this was clearly a talented team, particularly on offense. Dandy Don Meredith, a future All-American, was the quarterback, throwing to Willard Dewveall, an eventual second-round draft pick. Though they would only go 4-5-1 in 1957, they did manage to defeat decent Texas and Arkansas teams.
They did not defeat Missouri, however. Once again riding the quick kick and a stiff defense, Mizzou took a 7-6 lead in front of 26,500 at the Cotton Bowl, and then held on for dear life. Late in the game, SMU advanced deep into Mizzou territory, facing a second-and-goal from the Mizzou 1. But Mizzou stuffed the Mustangs on three straight plays. On fourth-and-ballgame, SMU halfback Frank Smith ran left and found a hole, but backup defensive back Don Mason met him one-on-one and prevented the touchdown. Mizzou held on by the skin of its teeth, and moved to 2-1-1.
October 19: Mizzou 35, Iowa State 13
After a reasonably successful trip through their non-conference season, it was time for Mizzou to start Big 7 conference play with an always tricky bus ride to Ames. Since a stretch from 1935 to 1950, when Missouri went 12-1-3 against Iowa State, the Tigers had fought the Cyclones to a stalemate in the 1950s. While they had still gone 3-0-1 at home against ISU, they had lost in three consecutive trips to Ames.
That streak ended with Broyles' first trip north in black and gold.
The Tigers and Cyclones were tied at 7-7 at halftime, but Mizzou erupted for 28 second-half points. Snowden scored twice, the Tigers rushed for 327 yards — against an ISU defense that had just held mighty Oklahoma to 164 yards, no less — and Mizzou rolled, 35-13.
October 26: Mizzou 14, Nebraska 13
1957 might have represented Nebraska at its lowest ebb. The Huskers went 6-2-1 in 1950 and finished 17th in the country but otherwise didn't post a single ranked finish between 1941 and 1963, Bob Devaney's second year in town. They would go 1-9 in 1957, Bill Jennings’ first in town.
As bad as NU was that fall, though, on that particular Saturday, Mizzou was worse. Or almost worse, anyway.
The electric clock at the north end of Memorial Stadium, blinking defiantly down on shivering Homecoming spectators, many of them beginning to retreat in mental resignation from the scene of the crime, challenged a young Missouri U. football team that had tripped, stumbled and fumbled toward an upset defeat.
The Tigers, two-touchdown favorites trailing by six points, had possession of the ball on their own 44-yard line, a result of a 12-yard return by Bob Haas, but only 2 minutes and 42 second remained. Worse, outplayed by determined Nebraska since midway in the second quarter, the bumbling Bengals of flu-feverish Frank Broyles, hadn't sustained an attack since the first time they'd touched the ball.
Mizzou led 7-0 at halftime, but NU charged back for two scores in the third quarter and led 13-7 late in the game. But a couple of long passes and a Snowden plunge saved the day. Mizzou survived Homecoming with a 14-13 win, a game remembered mostly for what had happened the day before.
Oct. 25, 1957: A group of pranksters changed the rock "M" to an "N" the night before the Missouri-Nebraska game. But the Mizzou groundskeeper, with the help of some young boys who gained free admission to the game in exchange for their assistance, restored the "M" to its proper form before kickoff. The next day, Missouri used a last-minute touchdown to post a come-from-behind 14-13 win over the Huskers.
November 2: Mizzou 9, No. 18 Colorado 6
Mizzou looked tired and sloppy against Nebraska, but the Tigers had one more burst left in them. On a trip to Boulder to face one of the most talented Colorado teams to date, Mizzou pulled off maybe its biggest win of the 1950s to that point.
A week before Mizzou visited, Colorado had traveled to Norman and given Oklahoma a major scare — their 14-13 loss to the undefeated Sooners was the first time a visiting team had come within one possession of winning in Norman since TCU came within 21-16 in early 1954.
An overflow crowd of 41,000, a live mascot, and a wet, drizzly field greeted the Tigers on the first Saturday in November, and for all intents and purposes, Colorado outplayed Broyles’ men. The Buffs won the yardage battle, 329-123, but thanks to Haas' quick kicks, Mizzou dominated the field position battle. With Colorado clinging to an early 6-0 lead, Kuhlmann scored to even things up. Charlie Rash's PAT put Mizzou ahead by one.
Mizzou continued to leverage the field in its favor, and after pinning the Buffs deep with another nice kick, Bob Lee blocked a Boyd Dowler punt for a safety, giving Mizzou a 9-6 win. This was a masterful lesson in the Little Things™, and it was Broyles’ biggest win in a Mizzou polo.
Two days after the big win, Missouri appeared in the AP Poll for the first time since the 1950 preseason. Broyles' 5-1-1 Tigers were the new No. 19 team in the country, and undefeated Oklahoma was coming to town the next week with the Orange Bowl on the line. It would be the biggest game in Columbia since OU had come to town in 1949.
Columbia was ready to rock. So were the Sooners.
November 9: No. 2 Oklahoma 39, Mizzou 14
As Frank Broyles would later say, "We didn't have a chance, and I'm the only one who knew it." In front of a record crowd of 39,500 in Columbia, Oklahoma did what it had done for most of the previous four seasons — 47 straight games, to be exact: stomp a mudhole in a hapless opponent. Snowden was injured, but it didn’t matter. OU was too good.
- Total yardage: OU 464, MU 162.
- First downs: OU 28, MU 10.
- Turnovers: MU 6, OU 3.
This could have been so much worse than 39-14.
This game was actually pretty historically notable, and not because of anything Missouri did. It was the last game of OU's historic winning streak. The next week, this cover would come out. And then this happened:
The streak was no more, but that didn't really matter to either Broyles or Mizzou. They had earned the moment they wanted, and they had gotten smoked. It's usually pretty hard to recover from such an emotional letdown. It was particularly hard for Missouri.
November 16: Kansas State 23, Mizzou 21
Mizzou had gotten near the national spotlight by using what Broeg called the "punt-and-pray" strategy. Being so amazingly conservative — not that Broyles had a choice — is a good way to stay close to good teams and maybe even beat them, but it's also a good way to keep bad teams close to you.
The upside of the strategy showed itself on November 2 in Boulder. The downside happened against both Nebraska and Kansas State.
Mizzou simply couldn’t get the ball away from KSU. The defense was out of gas, and KSU was able to snap the ball 88 times to MU’s 50. KSU backs Ralph Pfeiffer and Keith Wilson rushed 38 times for 205 yards, and with Snowden barely able to play, Mizzou's offense was too mistake-prone to keep up. On the day that Mizzou officially retired Bob Steuber’s jersey, Mizzou fell in an upset.
November 23: Kansas 9, Mizzou 7
They were stomped by a great team and upset by a bad one, and now, with Frank Broyles' first season in Missouri coming to a close, the Tigers were reeling.
Snowden was still nowhere near 100 percent, and an MU offense that had been shorthanded from the jump was even worse off. Still, though, they took and clung to a lead in their Border War finale.
KU's Homer Floyd broke open a 72-yard touchdown in the first quarter, but KU missed the PAT, and that made the difference in most of the game. Mizzou led 7-6, but Broyles had even less confidence in his offense than before. With a chance to cushion the lead on 4th-and-inches in KU territory at one point, Mizzou punted.
Still, the Tigers were driving to clinch the game when they lost a fumble inside the KU 15. And behind the legs of Dave Harris, the Jayhawks drove into field goal position in the final minute. Now, there was no such thing as a gimme kick in the 1950s, but a guy named Ray Bames, who had missed the PAT earlier, made a 27-yarder with 48 seconds left, and KU escaped with an unlikely win.
Mizzou finished the season in a tailspin, with three straight losses after a dramatic surge to the front of the conference standings. Broyles was absolutely crushed by the Kansas loss, but still, the future looked pretty bright considering how well they had played at times.
Of course, while the 1957 season had some pretty memorable highs and lows, the most notable moment took place after the season was over. Even as the season was progressing more positively than expected, Broyles was a bit unhappy with what he had discovered about the Missouri job in his time in Columbia.
Broyles knew that Don Faurot and Missouri boosters preferred recruiting Missouri kids over all others — that winning with Missouri kids was better than winning big with out-of-staters. No problem, he thought. He convinced administrators to let him integrate the roster to bring in more talent, something that should have happened years earlier anyway. That certainly helped, and the 1957 freshman team looked like a keeper.
Still, he didn’t foresee the lack of big-time high school focus on football throughout the state of Missouri. From Broeg:
At a speech earlier before Missouri high school superintendents and principals Broyles had fussed about lack of prep emphasis in football. Leaving MU he decried the absence of spring football in high school and lack of a state prep all-star game.
"There aren't enough small-town schools playing football to make up for a disappointing situation I found in St. Louis city proper and in Kansas City," Broyles told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "Too many of the better high school coaches, the basic football teachers, are leaving the field. I though, for instance, I could expect 15 to 20 topflight players a year out of St. Louis alone. Last year we were able to recruit only four."
It was likely pretty clear to Broyles that he could build a competitive program at Mizzou—one that could win more than it lost. But he wanted to build something elite, something to compete with what he had watched Bobby Dodd build at Georgia Tech, and the likelihood of that, in his perception, wasn't nearly as high as he had once thought. The lack of athleticism on the 1957 squad, and their crumbling down the stretch, continued to weigh on him.
In early December, Don Faurot gave Arkansas athletic director John Barnhill permission to speak with Broyles about the Razorbacks' open head coach position. He didn't think much of it, really — Broyles had given him his word that the only job he would leave for was Georgia Tech, and as mentioned before, Faurot saw a lot of Broyles in himself.
But as we know now, Faurot had seriously weighed moving on to Ohio State and USC just a few years earlier. Loyalty is more a hindsight thing than something of the present tense.
Broyles took the Arkansas job. Mackenzie and Green went with him. Claiborne had already left to join Bear Bryant in Tuscaloosa. For the second time in 12 months, Faurot was looking for his legacy hire.
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) -- The University of Missouri wasn't real hard up for a football coach for more than two decades but now it is out beating the bushes for a new staff--for the second time in a year.
Don Faurot, director of athletics, lined up a huddle today with the faculty members of the committee on intercollegiate athletics. He said he already had made a few telephone calls and had received a number about the head coaching job.
Faurot gave up football at the end of the 1956 season after 21 years as Missouri's head man and began giving full time to the other part of his dual role--director of athletics. He got Frank Broyles to come from Georgia Tech to take on the football job. Broyles quit Saturday to go to Arkansas. [...]
His sudden departure, along with that of three assistants, left a Missouri football staff of othree who date well back into the Faurot era. They are Harry Smith, line coach, Clay Cooper, freshman coach and chief recruiter, and John Kadlec, another line coach who formerly was Cooper's assistant with the freshmen.
The names of Smith and Cooper bobbed up immediately in the talk about a successor for Broyles, as they had last year when the hunt was on for a successor for Faurot. [...]
Other names figuring in the speculation included Norris Patterson of William Jewell College at Liberty, Mo., and Kenneth Knox of Southeast Missouri State at Cape Girardeau.
Faurot said he hoped it wouldn't take long to land a man.
Now, to be sure, the names on that initial list were all successful in their own right. Patterson is a Missouri hall of famer, and Knox is a SEMO hall of famer. But we’ll go ahead and assert that it’s probably a good thing Faurot took his time instead of going with either a loyalty hire or an in-stater.
Of course, within a few days he had begun to hone in Arizona State’s head coach. Dan Devine had just led the Border Conference’s Sun Devils to a 10-0 season and No. 12 finish in the AP poll. He had been considered for the Kansas job — if you’re into butterfly effects, Kansas had just hired Arkansas’ coach, Jack Mitchell which is why the Razorbacks’ job was open in the first place. In some alternate universe, Broyles’ Tigers and Devine’s Jayhawks go at each other for years.
Within two weeks of Broyles’ departure, Faurot had hired Devine. This one stuck.
In Broyles, Faurot thought he had found the guy to take Missouri through the next 15 years. Things didn't work out that way. And in the end, both Missouri and Broyles probably ended up as good or better off with his departure. Broyles would win a national title in Fayetteville in 1964, while Missouri would almost win one in 1960 and churn out one of the winningest programs of the 1960s under Devine — who, by the way, was allowed to recruit out-of-staters.
Faurot found his man. No hard feelings. But I’m guessing that even a proud, non-vengeful man like Faurot probably enjoyed September 28, 1963, quite a bit. On that afternoon in Little Rock, Devine’s Tigers took down Broyles’ Razorbacks, 7-6.