Frank Broyles' unhappiness with Nolan Richardson began even as Richardson was winning the national championship tournament in 1994, when Richardson insulted CBS announcer Billy Packer in a post-game interview.
Or so Broyles testified in a deposition taken in advance of the trial of Richardson's lawsuit against the University of Arkansas, which fired Richardson as basketball coach in 2002. Richardson, who is black, claims that racial discrimination was behind his dismissal.
Broyles, the UA athletic director, who hired Richardson, testified that he'd come to believe that a change was needed because of statements made by Richardson that were damaging to the program. When Richardson's lawyer, John W. Walker of Little Rock, asked about these comments, Broyles said:
"The first one was during the national championship. His comments after the [NCAA tournament] games were, I think, devastating to the program. He made them consistently and then the one in particular I'm thinking about is when he embarrassed - I think embarrassed and the public thought embarrassed Billy Packer with his question - insulting question, after the game when he won the championship. … Billy Packer asked him a question and he insulted Billy Packer with the answer." Broyles said he didn't remember Packer's exact question. Walker said it was something to the effect that "Well, Coach, I see where you moved from the 1-3-1 defense to something else." Broyles said Richardson's reply was something like "Well, even a blind man could see that, Billy."
Broyles said he didn't discuss Richardson's comment with Richardson - he wasn't asked if he discussed it with Packer - but "Other people talked to me about it."
(The exchange actually occurred after the semifinal game with Arizona, rather than the championship game with Duke. Incidentally, this was the same tournament during which Packer insulted then-President Bill Clinton, a Razorback fan, although not to Clinton's face. When the TV cameras focused on Clinton in the stands, Packer sneered "Doesn't he have anything better to do?")
Broyles said there were other offensive comments from Richardson, including one in which Richardson called Razorback fans "turds and assholes." There was also a reference to "redneck SOBs," Broyles said. (Broyles said he coached football for 17 years, never used a word of profanity and still doesn't.) These and other statements by Richardson hurt recruiting, the fan base and team morale, Broyles said.
Broyles said he had a dispute with Richardson in 1998 concerning a Reebok contract with the UA to provide athletic apparel. Richardson felt that a change in inventory control lessened his authority, and said that he didn't want to deal again with Katie Hill, Jesse Branch or Bill Gray, all athletic department employees, but to report to Broyles only, Broyles said. He said Richardson became angrier the more he talked, and eventually shouted "Just fire me and pay me off. I want to be fired."
Broyles said he replied that Richardson's remark was ridiculous, that he had no reason to fire him. "His comment was, 'Then by my actions, I will give you reasons to fire me.' "
Broyles said that Richardson had a run-in with Danny Ford while Ford was the Razorback football coach. "Mr. Ford told me that Mr. Richardson told him not to expect any help from him in recruiting any football players ever again. He called him a redneck … " The incident had to do with an athlete on a football scholarship who was playing basketball, Broyles said. Ford was fired before Richardson, and replaced by Houston Nutt.
Broyles said that a friend, Jim Lindsey, told him that another friend of Lindsey's had wondered aloud what difference there was "between a redneck SOB and an 'N' SOB." (Lindsey is now a member of the UA Board of Trustees. Broyles said he was not a trustee at the time of the remark but was a member of the board of the Razorback Foundation.) Broyles said he repeated this remark at a banquet while making the point that both terms are offensive. He said that he had mistakenly used the word "nigger" during the banquet address, and should have used "the N word" instead.
Around 1997 or '98, Richardson told Broyles that he didn't want Ted Harrod involved with basketball recruitment, Broyles said. Harrod, a Dallas businessman, was a fan and contributor to the athletic program. Sometime after Richardson's warning, Harrod's hiring and overpayment of Razorback athletes for summer employment got the UA in trouble with the NCAA. Richardson also told Broyles that Broyles would be in trouble if he "continued to support Elbert Crawford," Broyles said. He gave no explanation. Crawford is, or was, a sports agent.
Broyles said that by 2000, he thought it was time for a change. Attendance, wins and contributions all were dropping, he said, and there was a problem selling Richardson's TV show to sponsors. People were still buying tickets, but some were saying they wouldn't attend the games until Richardson was gone, Broyles said.
Walker asked, "Did you intend to terminate Mr. Richardson before he won the SEC tournament in the year 2000?" Broyles replied "I discussed with my superiors that that should be considered. … The university said it was impossible, we shouldn't do it, is my best recollection."
Walker asked "Would he have been fired if he had not turned it around?" Broyles said "I would have proceeded that way, yes."
The trial is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. May 5 in federal Judge William R. Wilson Jr.'s court in Little Rock. It will be a non-jury trial.