LITTLE ROCK — On the job for a couple of years at Arkansas, Frank Broyles called Bob Cheyne into his office and ordered up a point-specific statement about Georgia Tech coach Bobby Dodd.
A quarterback under Dodd, Broyles insisted that Cheyne make “it very emphatic that I’m very complimentary about coach Dodd” and note what Dodd had meant to him. But, Broyles, hired at Arkansas in 1958, wanted to make it clear that he was committed to Arkansas for the rest of his career.
Cheyne was also to share the finished product with Broyles. All bases covered, Broyles told Cheyne to give him a copy and stick another copy in his wallet.
“And when the news hits the paper that coach Dodd is retiring, wherever you are, release it,” Broyles told Cheyne. “If you’re in Austin when it comes out, don’t even call me, just release it.”
Arkansas’ first sports information director, Cheyne said he kept the statement with him until Dodd retired in 1966.
Deputized by athletics director John Barnhill in January 1958, Cheyne was one of the first in Arkansas to meet Broyles. The man from Georgia had completed his first year at Missouri with a 5-4-1 record, Jack Mitchell had left Arkansas for Kansas, and sports writers up North were convinced Barnhill was going to hire Minnesota coach Murray Warmath.
Barnhill told Cheyne he could tell no one, not even wife Jennie, about his mission: “I want you to go to Joplin in the morning and pick up Frank Broyles,” Barnhill said.
Long before the media tracked tail numbers of private planes, Broyles flew from Columbia, Mo., to Joplin and rode with Cheyne to Fayetteville.
Those anecdotes are among any about Cheyne in a book called “Voices of the Razorbacks,” published last September.
Before Chuck Barrett and Paul Eells and Bud Campbell and wall-to-wall coverage of college football on TV, there was Bob Cheyne. I don’t know how many Saturdays I watched a couple of family members alternately hover and pace around the radio and hang on Cheyne’s every word from Waco or Houston or Fayetteville.
Wound up tight after 30 excruciating minutes of defense and field position, we’d spend halftime outside throwing the football.
A friend who was working for Cheyne reminded me of the football doubleheader Cheyne attempted in November 1963, before freshmen were eligible. The Razorbacks played Rice in Houston during the day and the Arkansas Shoats took on Wichita State in Little Rock that night.
The 7-0 loss to the Owls ran long and a police escort to the airport helped some, but Cheyne’s charter flight was around Benton when the game kicked off at War Memorial Stadium. Engineer Harold “Rip” Lindsey, who had never been on the air and knew nothing about football, did his best.
There was no elevator to the pressbox and Cheyne said he ran up 57 stairs. “But I swore I would never, ever, under any circumstances, try to do two ballgames in one day,” he said.
Not only was Cheyne the play-by-play man who did a scoreboard show following afternoon games and prior to night games, he was the man who put together the Razorback Radio Network at Barnhill’s request.
In 1951, wife in tow, Cheyne visited the 30-something radio stations in the state, often unannounced, and pitched the network. The going price for stations outside Little Rock was $25 per game and, with Barnhill’s pre-approval, Cheyne would sweeten the deal with two complimentary tickets to every in-state football game.
Earlier this month, Cheyne died at 86. I crossed paths with him when he was still the Arkansas SID in the late 60s, before he joined Cooper Communities, and visited with him briefly a few years ago in the pressbox at Razorback Stadium.
We talked about Razorback football and the Cooper-sponsored golf shindig for coaches. I should have admitted to hanging on his every word during the early 1960s.
Harry King is a sports columnist. His email is HLeonK42@gmail.com.