Richardson, UA both claim victories in dismissed lawsuit

Friday, July 9th 2004, 8:38 am
By: News On 6

LITTLE ROCK (AP) -- Former Arkansas basketball coach Nolan
Richardson vowed to keep fighting Thursday after his race
discrimination lawsuit against the University of Arkansas was
dismissed by a federal judge.
"People know Nolan Richardson, know he will fight ... to the
end," Richardson told Fayetteville television station KHBS-KHOG.
But later in the day, Richardson appeared relieved at his ranch
outside Fayetteville. Richardson, who coached at Tulsa before being
hired at Arkansas, smiled and talked about his coaching career,
noting it had peaks and valleys.
Richardson's lawyer, John Walker, said he and the national
title-winning coach would consider their options for appeal over
the coming weeks. He also said that a swifter decision by U.S.
District Judge William R. Wilson could have helped Richardson.
"I believe if he ruled initially or soon thereafter, he would
have ruled for Mr. Richardson," Walker told reporters Thursday.
Wilson released a 47-page decision Thursday afternoon following
18 days of testimony in May and June and three weeks of
Richardson filed his lawsuit Dec. 19, 2002, claiming he was
fired in March of that year because he is black and had spoken his
mind. The university responded that it had fired him because he had
asked for a contract buy-out after a February 2002 game against
Kentucky, indicating he had lost faith in the program he helped
guide to the 1994 NCAA Championship and the title game in 1995.
University lawyers were pleased with the decision, considering
it the "conclusion of an unfortunate era."
Phil Kaplan, the school's Little Rock-based attorney, said
Thursday he was confident the decision would hold up under appeal,
but noted there were "some things that bothered us about some of
(Wilson's) findings."
Kaplan didn't specify the parts that bothered the university
officials, but Wilson did find "direct evidence of
discrimination," particularly as it related to Athletic Director
Frank Broyles.
Wilson cited the testimony of Clay Henry, the publisher of the
Razorback fan magazine "Hawgs Illustrated" and son of a legendary
Arkansas sports reporter, the late Orville Henry. The younger Henry
testified that Broyles essentially asked for an article comparing
Richardson's use of the word "redneck" and a racial slur against
"This solicitation can hardly be seen as anything but a
willingness to 'stir the racial pot,"' the judge's decision says.
It also said that "it should ring out loudly and clearly" that
it's far worse for a white person to use a racial epithet against
minorities than for a black man to use slang terms for whites.
Kaplan said it was fine for Wilson to note in his decision that
Richardson truly believed he was being discriminated against, but
added that "it is a fact of human life and experience that people
tend not to blame themselves for something that happens."
The former coach told his lawyer in a television interview that
he was pleased with Walker's effort.
"Just getting to court was a victory," Richardson said later
from his Fayetteville town house.
He told Little Rock television station KATV that his case was a
victory because it had led to more diversity in the university
faculty and staff. Kaplan said school officials are working "with
as much speed as possible to create a fully hospitable and diverse
academic environment."
Richardson also told KATV that he misses basketball and wants to
coach again.
"Coaching is in my blood and I still feel I have some pretty
good years left, and I'm certainly going to follow that
opportunity," Richardson said.