Razorback Legends: The John Barnhill story

NOTE: Ryne E. Hancock is one of our friends on Twitter and runs the blog, Southern Times, Girls, and Sports. He wrote a great article on former Arkansas Football Coach John Barnill earlier today and was kind enough to cross-post it here for our readers.You can follow Ryne on Twitter @RHancock19 and on Facebook at TheSTGSNation. -Jacob

Barnhill walked the Arkansas sidelines from 1946-1949

For nearly 40 years, Arkansas basketball played in Barnhill Arena.

The building, which opened in 1954, was home to two Final Four teams, nine Southwest Conference championship team, and a sole SEC championship team during its run.

But the story behind the namesake of Barnhill, lies a story of courage.

Born on February 23, 1903 in Savannah, Tennessee, John Henry Barnhill is the single most influential person in the history of Arkansas athletics.

After going 32-5-2 as head coach at Tennessee during Robert Neyland’s absence because of World War II, Barnhill would leave Knoxville for a struggling Arkansas program in 1946.

That same year, the Razorbacks would win the Southwest Conference title, thanks to the talents of Clyde “Smackover” Scott, who would later win the silver medal in the 1948 Olympics in the hurdles.

However, in 1949, after a 6th place finish in the SWC, Barnhill would be diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, which in turn forced him to step down as Razorback football coach.

Despite this, Barnhill as athletic director, a position he held for 26 years, oversaw the addition of football games in Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium, beginning in 1949 as well as the creation of the Razorback radio network, giving statewide visibility to the Razorbacks.

In 1958, Barnhill would hire a young coach by the name of Frank Broyles, who in turn won seven Southwest Conference titles and the 1964 national championship.

Barnhill would remain as athletic director until 1971, when Broyles replaced him as AD.

Barnhill would die at the age of 70 on October 21, 1973. At the time of his death, Arkansas football had rose from struggling program to one of the SWC’s premier programs, with 7 SWC football titles under his watch as AD.

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