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Pride and prejudice.

NEARLY AS EAGERLY ANTICIPATED in Arkansas as Smarty Jones' appearance in the Belmont Stakes (and not nearly so well choreographed) was last week's dismissal of Nolan Richardson's discrimination complaint against his former bosses at the University of Arkansas.

And just like the Belmont Stakes, the right horse won. In the Richardson case, however, the winner was a foregone conclusion. The former basketball coach proved that he is black, that he is the kind of guy who speaks his mind, that he was fired and that Frank Broyles is an exceptionally unpleasant person to work for. But he couldn't quite pull it all together to prove that he got the ax because he was an outspoken black man.

U.S. District Judge William R. "Bill" Wilson's ruling made us want to run down to the federal courthouse and pay 50 cents a page for earlier rulings just so we'd be sure of some good reading for the weekend. He's the only judge who would introduce Richardson and Broyles as "the two primary protagonists in this real life drama." He even pulled quotes out of Vincent Bugliosi's true-crime classic, "Helter Skelter."

While Wilson determined that the UA had not discriminated against Richardson because of race, UA officials can have no doubt that their win was whatever you call the opposite of a moral victory. They won, but they need to leave the field with their heads held low. If Richardson went in with "wounded pride," as Wilson wrote, the University of Arkansas should come out with the same.

Here are some of our favorite parts:

* On the question of whether the head football and head basketball coaching position at the UA were "substantially equal," Wilson wrote:

"Defendant Broyles offered distinctions between the specific job tasks of each (football has more players, more assistant coaches, a larger space in which to coach), and suggests that coaching football was more difficult than coaching basketball. I find this argument unpersuasive and unsupported by other testimony, expert or otherwise. Although Broyles was a three-sport athlete at Georgia Tech (football, basketball and baseball), he has only coached football. I suspect this fact may color his view on this point."

* On the timing of the decision to fire Richardson:

"In all, thirteen witnesses testified that the decision was made on Sunday, February 24, 2002. I agree with the testimony of [attorney Gene] McKissick [founder of the UA Black Alumni Society] that this termination was mishandled. Additionally, I agree with Chancellor [John] White that waiting until February 28, 2002, to advise Coach Richardson of the decision was not only unfair, but an administrative nightmare."

* On the UA's handling of Richardson in general:

"In weighing all of the evidence it seems clear to me that Richardson should have been counseled about his sometimes intemperate remarks, and that UAF administrators should have made more timely and direct responses to his complaints. No one can say for sure, but I am inclined to believe that the firing could have been avoided, or postponed considerably, if there had been more and better communication by his supervisors."

* On testimony that a former chairman of the UA Board of Trustees and a current board member that they still use the word "nigger" and tell racial and ethnic jokes:

"Anyone 'amongst the folks' knows that racial terms and jokes are still acceptable conversational coin with some people. It seems to me, however, that when a person accepts an important position of trust with the entire University of Arkansas system, he would purge his vocabulary of such words--and work on his heart and mind in the same vein.

"Most troubling to me was that neither of these witnesses seemed abashed by their admissions. I hope I read them wrong on this point."

* On Richardson's public statements:

"It is true that during his tenure of seventeen years as head coach of the Arkansas Razorback basketball team, Richardson spoke out on matters of public concern, specifically on matters of race. It is also true that Richardson just spoke out, period."

* On the supposedly unwilling testimony of Mike Nail, the Fayetteville radio broadcaster who called Razorback basketball games:

"It appeared to me that he relished his role as clean-up batter for the Defendants, and he pretty much covered the waterfront for them."

Regarding conflicting testimony by Nail and broadcaster Paul Eels, Wilson wrote, "This means that either Nail or Eels lied about this specific point. I am satisfied that Eels told the truth. I need not state the flip side of this opinion, except to say that, in finding for the Defendants, I did not rely upon Nail's testimony."

We pity the man who has been called a liar by Judge Wilson.
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Title Annotation:Nolan Richardson discrimination suit
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 12, 2004
Previous Article:Collection effort.
Next Article:News from the east.

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