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Richardson's Fate Decided by Midweek

(LITTLE ROCK) - Nolan Richardson's bid to keep his job as Arkansas coach will be decided by the middle of the week.

Richardson and university President B. Alan Sugg met for more than three hours Monday, and Sugg said he would decide in a day or two whether to overturn Chancellor John White's decision to buy out the last six years of Richardson's contract for $500,000 a year, about half its face value.

``I'm still in the process of reviewing Dr. White's decision to terminate,'' Sugg said. ``I have a great deal of personal and professional respect for Coach Richardson. This is a tough issue, and I'll do my best to make the very best decision that I can.''

Richardson, who wants to remain as the Razorbacks' coach, said the session was a ``good meeting.''

``We presented our side. When you have a lot to talk about, it takes time,'' he said.

At a news conference after the meeting, Richardson released university documents that he said showed that, less than two weeks before his contract was terminated, Sugg and White held him in good standing.

Richardson said he believed Sugg was ``unaware of the ... evidence that would discount the recommendation'' of White to buy out Richardson's pact.

Richardson said he was certain that Sugg was ``under tremendous pressure to uphold this earlier decision to terminate me.''

John Walker, Richardson's lawyer, said he was hopeful Sugg would be fair in the face of a ``very strong athletic director with a reputation for outlasting presidents and chancellors.''

``I do not believe that it will be easy decision,'' Walker said.

On March 1, White said he was buying out Richardson's contract after the coach said publicly and privately that was what he wanted. Richardson has said he wants to remain as coach.

Richardson's contract gave the university the right to end the coach's employment without giving an excuse.

The meeting with Sugg didn't start until shortly before noon because Richardson and his lawyer attended the funeral of U.S. District Judge Henry Woods.

Richardson and Woods were friends, and Walker is a lawyer in a Little Rock school desegregation case that Woods handled for eight years.

After Woods' funeral at Christ the King Catholic Church, many of the 500 mourners went up to the coach, patted him on the back and wished him well during his meeting with Sugg. Two women kissed him on the cheek.

Richardson coached Arkansas for 17 years, leading it to the NCAA tournament 13 times and the NIT twice. His run included a national championship in 1994, a runner-up finish the next year and another Final Four appearance.

While the university has said it was fulfilling Richardson's request to buy out his contract, Richardson said Friday he did not request a buyout.

``I did not resign or retire, nor did I request to be bought, and I have not been bought out of my contract,'' he said in a statement to The Associated Press.

White announced the university was buying out Richardson's contract after the coach said twice publicly following a Feb. 23 loss at Kentucky that, if the school would buy him out, he would leave. Before the March 1 announcement, Richardson said he wanted to stay.

Documents provided to Sugg in advance of the meeting and reviewed by the AP included a June 21, 2001, memo to White in which athletic director Frank Broyles recommended that the university not extend Richardson's contract another year.

Also included was an exchange of correspondence this year in which the Arkansas Razorback Foundation proposed a new contract relating to the coach's TV show and Richardson's refusal to accept the proposal. The proposal included good-conduct clauses that would have barred the coach from making disparaging remarks about the university.

The documents also include a Feb. 12 memo to White in which Broyles contended Richardson had made disparaging remarks about the university in a newspaper article.

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