Heath's Future Remains Uncertain After Loss

SPOKANE, Wash. -- Let the craziness ensue.At one time, it appeared almost certain that Arkansas coach Stan Heath was going to be fired. Either the Razorbacks got into the NCAA Tournament, or the remaining three years of Heath's contract would be bought out, a source close to the program told The Morning News in February.

Arkansas made a late run at the end of the regular season to earn one the tournament's last at-large bids. But that hasn't done much to silence the rumors that Heath's job is in jeopardy.

Friday's 77-60 loss to fifth-seeded Southern California, in which the Razorbacks looked out of sync on offense and played equally poor defense, didn't sit well with those fans who already were calling for Heath to be fired.

Now the question remains: Will they get their wish? Or will one of the final decisions by outgoing Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles be to give Heath one more year with the Razorbacks?

"We don't worry about all that. I know we want him to stick around another year, though," Arkansas forward Sonny Weems said after Friday's loss. "We have people coming back, and we have potential to have a great season."

Arkansas officials didn't have any comment Saturday, and Broyles has said that he will evaluate Heath's job at the end of the season.

Heath and Broyles are expected to meet sometime soon, likely as early as this week. But an Arkansas spokesperson said Saturday afternoon that no date for the meeting has been set.

In the meantime, Heath's future remains in limbo.

"Every year we have a season, Coach (Broyles) and I sit down, we talk and we make evaluations," Heath said. "He picks my brain; I pick his brain. He gives me his thoughts, and he has never come to me and said, 'Hey, I want to talk to you or anything.' It's always been the same.

"So I know there's sources and speculation and people who have all the answers, but the guy who's in charge -- my boss -- he hasn't changed from the first day I have been here."

According to Heath's contract, the Razorback Foundation would need to pay the coach $900,000 to buy out the remaining three years of his contract.

But first, Broyles and other school officials must decide whether to retain Heath, who has gone 82-71 since replacing Nolan Richardson in 2002.

Heath has shown progress during his first five seasons, but it has come slower than some fans and boosters expected. That could lead to lower attendance for home games and a decrease in the amount of money the basketball program generates.

The Razorbacks have won at least 20 games in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1998-1999. They've also made the NCAA Tournament two years in a row, but they've failed to advance beyond the first round each time.

Heath's teams have also struggled away from Bud Walton Arena, going 7-33 in SEC road games.

Still, Arkansas' players have expressed support for their embattled coach, and they showed it in the locker room after Friday's loss to USC.

"When things go good, everybody is being praised. When things go bad, they have something to say," Arkansas point guard Gary Ervin said.

"But we're a positive team, and Coach Heath has been positive throughout this whole situation. And I think he's going to stay positive, and I believe we'll see him as our coach next year also."

That's not a guarantee, though.

A rumor has been circulating over the past month that Arkansas officials will try to make a run at hiring Texas A&M coach Billy Gillispie if Heath is fired. Kansas' Bill Self has also been rumored as a possible candidate.

On Saturday, FoxSports.com had a list of coaches who should "start getting your resumes ready." Heath was the first name mentioned. Michigan fired Tommy Amaker on Saturday and several other schools have already decided to make changes as well.

But it might be a few more days before Arkansas makes a determination about the coach's future, one way or another.

"Really, we can't think about that, and at the same time, we can't really talk about it," Arkansas forward Charles Thomas said. "So it is what it is."

Arkansas' Record Under Heath

2003 9-19

2004 12-16

2005 18-12

2006 22-10 First-round loss in NCAA Tournament

2007 21-14 First-round loss in NCAA Tournament

Total 82-71

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