Long Wants To Honor 1994 Champions

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas' 1994 National Championship basketball team will finally be officially honored in Bud Walton Arena. No date has been set. No formal plans have been made.

But Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long made it clear Thursday he intended to extend an invitation to former coach Nolan Richardson and the 1994 team's players. And 2009 makes the most sense to Long.

"I'm hopeful that we have the 15th anniversary next year and that would make sense to me to do something for that team," Long said. "And hopefully, we can get Coach Richardson to come back and be involved, and certainly we'll reach out to him and that team because they're a great part of our history and a great part of our tradition."

When reached by phone Thursday, Richardson sounded pleased to hear Long's viewpoint.

"I think it's a great idea to be able to honor those kids," Richardson said. "There's no question that I believe that's one of the wonderful things that needs to be done. I would certainly sit down and visit with the AD when I get the opportunity and discuss my involvement with any kind of celebration they have."

Both Long and Richardson have a grasp of why a formal celebration hasn't been held. Richardson, the winningest coach in Arkansas history, was fired in 2002 with one game left in the regular season. He later filed and lost a discrimination lawsuit against the university, and those actions likely led to no celebration being held.

As long as longtime athletic director Frank Broyles held his post, the chances of a Richardson sighting in Bud Walton Arena were pretty slim. But now, new faces are in new places.

"Being the new person, my understanding is that there have been overtures in the past and maybe they weren't received well," Long said.

They should be well-received this time around, though.

The old and the new seem to be meshing quite comfortably these days. First-year coach John Pelphrey called Richardson before accepting the Arkansas job. He also visited with Richardson earlier this week when the former Razorback coach spoke before the Northwest Arkansas Tip-Off Club in Springdale.

Long wanted to be there, but was in Little Rock on business..

"I'm hopeful that time heals and that Coach Richardson will come back and allow us to honor he and the rest of his team next year at the 15th anniversary," Long said.

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