I am writing to advise you of my decision based on the review I have conducted of the termination of your employment agreement with the University of Arkansas. This termination action was taken by Chancellor John White on March 1, 2002 after prior consultation with Athletic Director Frank Broyles and me.
As you are aware, your contract is unique in providing the responsibilities I have in the event of termination of your employment for the convenience of the University. In the contract negotiations, your agent, your attorney, and you required that prior to termination of your contract, I was to be consulted by the Chancellor and that, at your request, I would review this action and make a final decision.
Although you and your attorney, Mr. John Walker, questioned whether I would be able to conduct a fair review, you also indicated that you have confidence in my basic sense of fairness. As this review has progressed, I hope that this has been evident.
You and I had the opportunity to meet together for over three hours with our respective attorneys present. Prior to our meeting, you and your attorneys were able to review numerous documents from University files and to interview persons whom you believed might have information relevant to the review. About an hour of our meeting was taken by Mr. Walker going over materials and asserting your position and reasoning.
Since our meeting on Monday, I have followed up on issues that you raised. I have talked by telephone with Roy Kramer; Charles Bloom; Dwayne Peevy; John Guthrie, head of SEC officials; Mike Nail; Paul Eells; Fred Vorsanger; Ray Green; and in person with Katie Hill. I have had lengthy personal conversations with John White and Frank Broyles. I have reviewed your comments which were made following the Kentucky game and have viewed videotapes of these and other comments. I have conducted an extensive review of all the material which you provided me.
The University General Counsel's office has interviewed numerous individuals and at my request has compiled facts relevant to the specific issues you have raised. I have also been advised of interviews which legal counsel have conducted. Enclosed is a copy of a memorandum provided to me by the General Counsel. I have also been advised of the nature of the legal issues you have raised.
Based on my review, I am firmly convinced that the termination of your Employment Agreement by John White in consultation with Frank Broyles was legal and fair. I find no evidence of discriminatory conduct or motive in the making of this decision by John White and Frank Broyles.
I believe that the reasons which Mr. Harrison gave Mr. Walker in his March 5, 2002 letter are the reasons that the decision was made to terminate your employment agreement. These reasons are:
"On Sunday, February 24, 2002, Chancellor White and Coach Broyles discussed Coach Richardson's published comments following the Kentucky game. Chancellor White had also become aware earlier that day of private comments made by Coach Richardson on February 22 to the same effect. Chancellor White and Coach Broyles concluded that the comments by Coach Richardson indicating that he could be bought out of his contract immediately indicated a lack of his confidence in the basketball program and leadership for it. They also believed these comments to have a negative impact on fan support and other aspects of the program. Likewise it undermined their confidence in Coach Richardson's leadership for the future.
As Coach Richardson was aware, the provisions of the Employment Agreement regarding termination at will and the applicable guaranty of the Razorback Foundation had been a focal point of negotiations two years earlier. Coach Richardson's recent public and private comments clearly indicated that he wanted out of the Employment Agreement. This was further substantiated by his published comments on Monday, February 25, 2002 during which Coach Richardson, with deliberation, restated that when Coach Broyles, Dr. White and Dr. Sugg decide that "it's enough, then that's when they can pay me off and I'll be on my way." In the same remarks, Coach Richardson stated that he would not answer to the media, the fans nor anybody else. These remarks were widely publicized and supported the decision which Chancellor White had reached on the previous evening after consultation with Coach Broyles and Dr. Sugg."
Your public remarks on February 23, 2002 following the Kentucky game had a damaging impact on the basketball program and your leadership of it. Your privately making similar remarks on February 22, 2002, in the company of Fred Vorsanger and Mike Nail supports my conclusion that your public remarks were not spontaneous, but were made after thought and deliberation.
I believe that these are legitimate reasons for the termination of your contract and are the reasons Chancellor White communicated to me following his meeting with Coach Broyles. The damage of these remarks was compounded by your similar comments on February 25, 2002. Therefore,I am upholding the decision of Chancellor White to terminate your employment as the head coach of the Razorback basketball program at the University of Arkansas.
This has not been an easy decision for me because of my personal and professional respect for you.
I wish the best for you and Rose.
B. Alan Sugg