LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Lawyers for Nolan Richardson asked a federal
judge Wednesday to award the fired basketball coach $8.86 million
in his discrimination lawsuit against the University of Arkansas.
Both sides filed papers detailing how they would like U.S.
District Judge William R. Wilson Jr. to rule. Closing arguments are
scheduled for Wednesday.
In asking the judge to rule in his favor, Richardson asked for
back pay, other lost compensation and $2 million in damages.
Richardson had previously said he wants his job back, but abandoned
that notion in Wednesday's filing.
"Given the seriously strained relationship between plaintiff
and the university defendants and the presence of Coach Stan Heath
in the position formerly held by plaintiff, reinstatement of the
plaintiff is not a practicable remedy," his lawyers wrote.
Arkansas fired Richardson on March 1, 2002, saying the coach had
expressed a lack of faith in the Razorbacks' basketball program by
saying publicly he would leave if the school bought out his
contract. Richardson sued, claiming racial discrimination and a
violation of free-speech rights guaranteed by the U.S.
The nonjury trial started May 5 and testimony ended last week.
Wilson heard 18 days of testimony.
Since they were directed to give guidance on how the judge
should rule, each sides' filings are written in the manner of a
final court order. Predictably, they arrive at opposite conclusions
on nearly all aspects of the case.
A key issue in both filings is exactly when athletic director
Frank Broyles and chancellor John White decided to fire Richardson.
The university argues the decision was made Feb. 24,
2002, in response to Richardson publicly saying after a loss at
Kentucky, "If they pay me my money, I'll be gone tomorrow."
Richardson's lawyers asked the judge to rule the decision was
not made until Feb. 25, 2002, when the coach held a news conference
at which he alleged racism and evoked images of slavery. Testimony
showed that Richardson was not informed of his firing until Feb.
28, 2002, and was not given a letter of termination until March 1,
Richardson attorney John Walker wrote that White's memos about
the firing linked the dismissal to the Feb. 24 buyout remarks and
the Feb. 25 remarks referencing slavery and how Richardson
perceived the Arkansas playing field to be tilted against him.
University attorneys wrote that the judge should find that the
firing decision was made Feb. 24. Several members of the school's
board of trustees -- but not all -- testified they were notified that
day that Richardson would be released. One member, Dr. Joe
Hargrove, said system President B. Alan Sugg told him Feb. 28,
2002, that the school was only considering termination.
Walker wrote that Arkansas fired Richardson for exercising his
free-speech rights by talking about racial matters, including being
told by Broyles in 1999 that his being named an assistant athletic
director was a "token" appointment.
The university asked the judge to find the firing was based on
the buyout remark: "Richardson's dare to buy out his contract
cannot be characterized as relevant to anything but his own
personal frustrations with the nature of his job. None of his
comments addressed, or were intended to address, racial or social
issues, some breach of the public trust or misconduct by university
During testimony, athletic director Frank Broyles acknowledged
that in recounting a question that had been posed to him in 2000,
he used a racial slur. Broyles said after Richardson used the term
"redneck S.O.B.s" in regard to some fans, a school supporter
asked him whether that was any different than calling someone a
Broyles said he, "regrettably," repeated the comment
word-for-word to another group of supporters.
Richardson's lawyers sought to use that incident to show racism
and link it to the coach's firing. The university asked the judge
to rule otherwise, writing that "Broyles' single comment made two
years prior is so remote from Richardson's termination that no
causal link between the two events can be shown."
But Walker urged the judge to find that neither Broyles nor
White used any objective criteria to support their claim that his
buyout remarks had damaged the program.
"They did not attempt to gauge the reaction of fans or ask the
basketball players how they felt about Richardson's statement,"
Walker wrote in a footnote referring to Broyles' claim that his
"experience" let him know when a coach had lost faith in a
And while Broyles says he relied on his experience, Broyles also
testified that he had never heard any other coach make a similar
statement, Walker noted. "This discrepancy places Broyles'
credibility in question."
Walker asked Wilson to find all of Broyles' testimony unworthy
because he admitted on the stand that he had lied to reporters
about whether he would recommend Richardson for an athletic
director's post and had lied on Richardson's job evaluation by
saying in 2001 that he believed the coach was doing a good job.
He also says White's testimony should be disregarded because
White in 2002 wrote in a memo that he fired Richardson on Broyles'
advice, but said at trial that he made the decision on his own.
Also, Walker said, White said he told a university spokesman Feb.
25, 2002, that Richardson would be fired, but told reporters two
days later that he and Sugg had no knowledge of a buyout.
The university asked the judge to find that Richardson proved
none of his allegations, writing that "upon consideration of all
the evidence in the record that Richardson offered in his attempt
to show that the defendants' stated reason for firing him was not
true, and all other evidence he contends show racial animus on the
part of Broyles, White or Sugg, this court is left with only one
clear impression: Richardson failed to prove by a preponderance of
the evidence that his race was a motivating factor in the
university's decision to terminate him."