Arkansas Democrat Gazette’s High Profile on David Bazzel

Part man, part tornado, Bazzel has created the state's largest touchdown club and so much more...
Part man, part tornado, Bazzel has created the state’s largest touchdown club and so much more… Courtesy: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

I recently had the pleasure of writing a biographical feature on David Bazzel, one of the most well known personalities in Arkansas sport media and certainly its most versatile. “The Baz” has dabbled in everything from sports medicine and fitness column writing to sports anchoring and morning talk show hosting. In recent years, though, his focus has increasingly shifted to creating traditions – whether in the form of new chants, new trophies or Razorback game-day ceremonies. The former Razorback linebacker’s most significant creation, on a national scale, is the Broyles Award which for the last 17 years has been honoring the legacy of Razorback don Frank Broyles. Bazzel proposed the award in 1996, but he didn’t immediately find receptive ground:

At first, Broyles was hesitant. He brought in longtime assistant Wilson Matthews to blitz Bazzel. “They were both going to make me prove I was confident in what I was doing,” Bazzel recalled. “They wanted to hear, ‘How are you going to execute this? What are the steps? How are you going to get your finances?’”

That last part proved to be tricky. Bazzel didn’t yet have sponsors, and it was difficult to find donors because Broyles had asked that he not take money that would have otherwise been donated to the University of Arkansas’ Razorback Foundation, the nonprofit fundraising arm of Arkansas athletics.

Bazzel once asked for support from a local company president: “He said, ‘Well I can either give you a check for $75,000 or I’m going to give Coach Broyles a check for $75,000. What do you think ?’”

In 1996, Bazzel borrowed about $100,000 from Capital Bank to launch the award. To make everything in the event first class – from the banquet to accommodations for the five major-college assistant coach nominees and their families – the expense was worth it, he said.

“It’s the names on these things. You can’t just walk out there with a big trophy and then not run [the show] well.”

Not all of Baz’s ideas have taken off. Some have sputtered after lift off, yawed a bit, then buried their noses into the ground. To wit:

[In 1996] he wanted to augment the “Hog Call” with a new chant used when the Razorbacks defense really needed to make a stop.

The “Root Hog” was meant to evoke the sound of a pig digging into the ground with its nose. “It almost sounds like a guttural ‘boo’ but it’s a root-root,” Bazzel recalls.

During halftime of a home Razorbacks basketball game, Bazzel made an “awkward” debut with the chant, according to one online message. “He’s wearing a leather jacket as he explains how you do the cheer,” writes H-O-double G on “Then right before he starts the cheer, he stops and takes off his jacket, to which he had on a cut-off sleeve muscle shirt … and then he says, ‘Now I know not everyone here has guns like ol Bazzel.’”

Reminded of this event, Bazzel laughs. “Who knows, I might have said something like that. Anything to get their attention at halftime.”

“That was strictly for impact purposes.”

Check out the entire feature in today’s High Profile section in the Democrat-Gazette. Or click here [paywall].

One entertaining story I wasn’t able to include in the piece was Bazzel’s ill-fated stab at live theater in the fall of 1998. “What!?!” you may very well be asking right now.  This is just about the same reaction Democrat-Gazette columnist John Brummet had then:

In the category of things you couldn’t make up because no one would believe them, we now have “Football, Biceps, Biscuits and Gravy: Confessions of a Razorback,” the one-man stage show of this same finely sculpted Florida refugee who made all those tackles… Twelve bucks will get you in for this 70-minute show.

I called David and asked what in tarnation this was all about: self-promotion born in ego of gargantuan and breath-taking proportion or a brave and adventurous spirit?  “I hope it’s the latter,” he said. “You know, this time last year I was wrestling around in the woods outside Greenbrier with a wild Russian boar. By comparison this seems tame.”

Advance ticket sales for the play, slated for the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, were so bad Bazzel cancelled it before the first show. Bazzel knew he was in trouble when Houston Nutt’s Arkansas coaching debut at home didn’t even sell out that weekend. “You win some, you lose some,” Bazzel told the paper, adding he has “no problem eating a little humble pie.”

I am of the mind that the screenplay for “Football, Biceps, Biscuits and Gravy: Confessions of a Razorback” may be the single most interesting/hilarious unpublished piece of work in late 20th century Arkansas sports history. I don’t care what the play is actually about – with a title like that it can’t be boring. So,  where might this literary grail filled with porcine gravy reside nowadays? Bazzel’s not sure – the file may possibly still be on this computer, and a paper version may still be floating around his condo near Chenal Promenade in Little Rock.

I hope once he slows down creating all these national awards he can spare a few hours looking for it.

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