Orville Henry was the most prescient sportswriter I ever knew, and even on his death bed in 2002 he saw what was coming involving Nolan Richardson, Frank Broyles, the University of Arkansas athletic department and its private funding arm, the Razorback Foundation. If only he – in his great Monday morning wrap style – were able to cover and analyze the goings-on from the Richardson v. UA trial, which at this writing was still scheduled to start next week.
Richardson, following his firing in 2002, filed suit against the UA athletic department, charging discrimination and violation of his right to free speech. At the time, no one outside of the plaintiff gave it much chance of reaching a courtroom. Needless to say, the UA didn’t want it to get that far and have the nonstop media coverage and negative publicity; the feeling in most places was that the UA would settle the case.
If Orville were around, he would have said long ago that Richardson is no settler. He didn’t settle for being a high school coach stuck in El Paso when peers were getting college assistant and head coaching jobs, he didn’t settle when he got his break to coach a junior college, and though he won over Tulsa immediately and could have had his statue built there, he had an eye on the biggest prize.
He won that in Fayetteville 10 years ago.
In 2000, during Broyles’ first siege of the Richardson castle, we wondered in this space how sad it was that while Arkansas was winning the SEC Tournament, certain folks back in Fayetteville were viewing that as a bad thing.
It was more sad to learn that Broyles, in a deposition for this trial, stated that even as far back as the national championship season, Richardson’s mouth was causing pain for the athletic director, enough that he hoped Richardson might move on. People had told Broyles that Richardson dissed Billy Packer on national TV, and Broyles considered that embarrassing to the program. (St. Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli took Packer to task on national TV this year for disrespecting his team; wonder if the St. Joe’s higher-ups think their coach is an embarrassment who needs to go?)
The success and egos of Broyles’ hires in the major sports seems to have bothered him to excess, dating to Lou Holtz’s tenure. As Orville noted in our pages in 2000, Broyles’ biggest problems are avoiding confrontation and having his department assistants to deal with the head coaches until things come to a head, and in most cases it’s too late to patch up differences.
By the way, the 79-year-old Broyles told the Dallas Razorback Club earlier this week that he wants to be on the job at age 90.