Leaders of the Broyles Foundation said Monday that they will move the annual Frank Broyles Award ceremony to Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort in Hot Springs starting with the end of the 2024 football season.
Oaklawn will be the presenting sponsor of the long-running program starting this year. The award, given each year since 1996, honors college football’s top assistant coach.
“This partnership with Oaklawn brings together two of Arkansas’ most respected and iconic sports brands,” Molly Harrell, executive director of the Broyles Foundation and the Broyles’ granddaughter, said in a news release.
“While Little Rock has been a most gracious host to our award ceremony for what will be 28 years, we are excited to introduce these top assistant coaches to the world-class amenities of Oaklawn and beautiful Hot Springs.”
The award is named in honor of the longtime University of Arkansas athletics director and football coach, who had Alzheimer’s disease and died in 2017. Harrell; Betsy Broyles Arnold, Broyles’ daughter; Oaklawn General Manager Wayne Smith; and David Bazzel, who founded the awards, announced the move during a news conference at the Little Rock Marriott.
“We are excited to put the brand strength and reputation of Oaklawn Hot Springs behind the Broyles Award for the long-term and to, more importantly, help enhance the mission of the Broyles Foundation in assisting families dealing with Alzheimer’s disease,” Smith said.
Proceeds from the awards event support the nonprofit Broyles Foundation, which helps Alzheimer’s caregivers through free education programs and other resources.
As part of the annual program, award finalists and their families attend a dinner the night before the awards ceremony and an awards banquet the following day. This year’s ceremony and luncheon will be held Tuesday, Dec. 5, at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock.
A date has not been set for the awards ceremony for the 2024 season. Organizers said that with the College Football Playoff to expand to 12 teams following the 2024 season, the awards presentation will likely shift its regular schedule in December to late January or early February of 2025.
Bazzel said that holding the awards events later could mean that more head football coaches — some of them past Broyles Award-winners — could attend the awards ceremony.
“It may be a situation where you see some of the top coaches in America coming in for the Broyles Award,” he said. “We didn’t have that available in December — it just wouldn’t happen. If this gets moved to February, you might have the availability to bring in coaches like Lincoln Riley, Kirby Smart — those who are past winners. It really opens up a lot of great doors for us.”
Oaklawn General Manager Wayne Smith said the date change will give the coaches and families more of an opportunity to enjoy Oaklawn and Hot Springs.
“We will be in the midst of an energizing and exciting thoroughbred racing season at Oaklawn and the shift in the schedule means the coaches and their families can spend more time benefitting from our resort, including our Astral Spa, and all that beautiful Hot Springs National Park has to offer,” Smith said in a news release. “Our city will roll out the red carpet.”
Visit Hot Springs CEO Steve Arrison said it will be good for the city to be affiliated with the award.
“Yes, it’ll be great for tourism, it’ll be great for our community,” he said. “It just brings the spotlight. And hopefully, if the schedule changes we’ll get all those big-time coaches. It’s just a great thing to be involved in, from a community aspect.”