LITTLE ROCK -- The chancellor who fired Nolan Richardson
testified at the trial on the ex-coach's discrimination lawsuit
Wednesday that he quickly discovered "sizable egos" in the
athletic department after arriving at Arkansas seven years ago.
John A. White, chancellor of the University of Arkansas at
Fayetteville, said Richardson believed athletic director Frank
Broyles tried to meddle in the basketball program by suggesting
that assistant coaches visit other college campuses in efforts to
pick up tips.
Broyles, in making the recommendation to Richardson in 1987, had
said he made similar trips as a football coach and believed the
basketball team might benefit. Richardson still resented the advice
more than a decade later, White said.
"It was quite clear to me that I had on my hands a couple of
sizable egos," White said, referring to Richardson and Broyles.
Disputes between the men continued through negotiations on
Richardson's final contract in 2000, White testified. After the
deal was signed, Broyles recommended that he and White visit the
Arkansas locker room after games to show their support for
Richardson and his team. Richardson has said he believed the visits
to be meddlesome.
Arkansas fired Richardson on March 1, 2002, after he said
publicly that he would leave the school if it bought out his $7.21
million contract. The school said the statement was a sign that
Richardson had lost faith in the program. Richardson sued, claiming
racial discrimination and a violation of free-speech rights
guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
B. Alan Sugg, the president of the University of Arkansas
system, also testified Wednesday that he didn't believe that
Richardson's buyout remark -- made publicly after a loss at Kentucky
-- was "a cry for help" as Richardson had claimed.
Sugg said Richardson gave no sign of needing help when the men
talked three weeks before the Kentucky game. Richardson explained
then that his struggling team wasn't shooting well and that things
would turn around, Sugg said.
But on Feb. 23, 2002, Richardson told reporters he would leave
Arkansas if it paid him his money. Sugg said he later asked
Richardson why he had made the remark, and the coach said it was a
"Here's the head basketball coach for the University of
Arkansas, one of the highest paid people in the state of Arkansas,
telling me that his way of crying out for help was to go on the
television station in Kentucky," Sugg said. "I thought that was a
After Arkansas fired Richardson and Sugg upheld the firing March
21, 2002, the coach sued the school and its athletic department
fund-raising arm, the Razorback Foundation.
Sugg testified Wednesday that he wanted to meet Richardson
face-to-face as he weighed the coach's in-house appeal. Sugg said
he and Richardson talked by telephone and that Richardson said it
wouldn't be productive to meet in person.
According to Sugg, Richardson told him that if Sugg had anything
to say, he should tell it to Richardson's lawyers. Sugg testified
that if the men had met in person, they might have reached a
different conclusion to the case. Sugg said he upheld Richardson's
firing after reviewing documents and other evidence.
The Razorback Foundation, which was dropped as a defendant last
week, is paying Richardson $500,000 a year through June 2008 under
terms of a buyout clause in the coach's contract.
Under the pact, income from another coaching job would reduce
the foundation's obligation, but Richardson has said he has been
unable to find work.
Tuesday, U.S. District Judge William R. Wilson dismissed the
foundation's counterclaim that Richardson hasn't done enough to get
a job and thereby reduce its obligation to the ex-coach.
University lawyers said Wednesday that Richardson had wanted to
eliminate the mitigation clause of his contract, which would free
him to take a new job and keep the $500,000 a year from the
Razorback Foundation. Richardson lawyer John Walker objected,
saying the discussion came up privately among lawyers in the case
and shouldn't be entered into evidence. Wilson agreed.
White and Sugg also testified about Richardson not wanting to be
held accountable for his players' graduation rates. Richardson's
contract included guaranteed money; other Arkansas coaches have
contracts that provide for extra pay if players meet certain
Testimony was expected to conclude Wednesday. Closing arguments
are set for June 11. Wilson is hearing the case without a jury.