FAYETTEVILLE, ARK. Arkansas bought out Nolan Richardson's contract for $3 million Friday, capping a week in which the outspoken coach complained he was treated differently because he is black.
Richardson won the national championship in 1994, took Arkansas to the title game the next year and led the Razorbacks into the postseason 15 of the last 16 seasons. But they are 13-14 this season and could miss the postseason for the first time since his first year at Arkansas in 1985.
Richardson had no comment and referred questions to Little Rock civil rights attorney John Walker, whom he hired this week.
"We believe it's time for a change in leadership for the best interests of the basketball program," said athletic director Frank Broyles.
Arkansas had the option of buying out Richardson's contract for $500,000 for each of the remaining six years of his seven-year pact. Sports information director Kevin Trainor said a clause would allow the school to stop paying Richardson if he took a job with another school.
Chancellor John White said outside his office Friday night that Richardson has until noon Monday to ask system President Alan Sugg to review the decision.
"I asked him if it was a civil rights issue and he said, 'No,'" White said. "I still believe that we resolved this amicably. I hope that coach Richardson sees it that way, too."
The announcement followed two days of talks between the 60-year-old coach and the university, including a session Friday with two lawyers for the school and Richardson's lawyer and agent.
Broyles said Richardson assistant Mike Anderson would take over as interim coach, adding that the school would begin seeking a replacement when appropriate.
Arkansas faces Vanderbilt today in its final regular-season game, and will play in the Southeastern Conference tournament. It is unlikely the team would make the NCAA tournament, but an NIT bid might still be possible.
White, who had been a Richardson supporter, said the decision was difficult.
"He has made many valuable contributions to the University of Arkansas and has provided exemplary service to causes and charities throughout the state," White said in a statement. "His legacy will last forever, but it is now time to look to the future."