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story.lead_photo.caption Former Arkansas head coach Nolan Richardson accepts a replica of his banner unveiled Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015, at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville. - Photo by Anthony Reyes

FAYETTEVILLE -- If the student government at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville gets its wish, the floor at Walton Arena will bear former Coach Nolan Richardson's name.

Andrew Counce, president of the UA's Associated Student Government (ASG), submitted a recommendation to the UA athletic department Monday in support of naming the floor Nolan Richardson Court.

Counce, the nephew of former Arkansas basketball player Jimmy Counce, said he showed the ASG legislation to Chancellor Joe Steinmetz in his monthly meeting with the chancellor Friday. The legislation was passed by the ASG on Feb. 6 by a 41-1 vote with seven abstentions, Counce said.

The idea of naming the court for Richardson, who led Arkansas to the 1994 NCAA championship in the Razorbacks' first year in Walton Arena, has been around for years.

Richardson, 76, compiled a 127-22 record at Walton Arena, winning 85.2 percent of his games there. He was 78-15 (.838) in Barnhill Arena for an overall home record of 205-37 (.847).

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Should the court at Walton Arena be named for former Coach Nolan Richardson?

Richardson is the all-time wins leader at Arkansas with a 389-169 record in 17 seasons, including 13 NCAA Tournament bids and three Final Four appearances, including a runner-up finish in 1995. The university hung a banner in his honor at Walton Arena in 2015.

The current push came from ASG senator Clay Smith, a junior from Jonesboro, who said he was discussing the idea with his family over Christmas break.

"My dad [Greg] said, 'Why don't you do something about it in student government? That's kind of what you're there for, to make a difference if that's something you're passionate about,' " Smith said.

Smith brought the idea up with other senators and with Caleb Gray, the director of athletic relations with the ASG, and introduced the resolution to the group Jan. 31.

UA athletic department spokesman Kevin Trainor said he was aware the ASG letter had been sent to the department on Monday, and that Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek was not in the office to comment.

A spokesman for Steinmetz said he has not had a chance to discuss the issue with Yurachek.

Counce, a senior from Memphis, and Smith said they hope to set up meetings with university officials to further discuss the matter.

"Ideally, we would like to have it done by the end of this year, but we know that's probably not feasible," Smith said. "If we start at the beginning of next year, it would be perfect timing because it would be the 25th anniversary of winning the national championship in '94."

Smith said he called Richardson to discuss the idea and Richardson told him it wasn't his place to push for it, but if the fans wanted it he wouldn't back away from the honor.

"I'm kind of a neutral-type person when it comes to something being named after me," Richardson told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

The El Paso, Texas, native has a middle school and recreation center named for him in El Paso, and a gym in Bowie, Texas, is named after him.

"I didn't go into this to have something named after me," he said. "I tried to do my job and do it the best I could. What happens after that happens.

"I would say to the students that if they felt I did a job they liked and they want to express their opinion on something such as naming the court after me, there's no reason for me to not want anything to happen.

"If it happens, that's wonderful. If it doesn't happen, that's wonderful. I've done the job that I thought I had to do, which was to get our program on a level where such a facility could be built."

Richardson and then-Athletic Director Frank Broyles met with Bud Walton to discuss the idea of making improvements to Barnhill Arena and came away with Walton's support to build a new home for the Razorbacks.

Richardson's departure from Arkansas led to a period of strained relations on both sides. He was fired March 1, 2002, soon after saying "if they go ahead and pay me my money, they can take my job tomorrow."

Richardson filed an $8.86 million lawsuit against the UA, the UA board of trustees and the Razorback Foundation in December 2002, claiming racial bias and violation of free speech. The lawsuit was dismissed July 8, 2004.

Relations between Richardson and university officials have thawed in the past several years, beginning with his appearance in 2009 at a 15-year reunion of the 1994 championship team. Richardson, who has kept a home in Fayetteville, began attending games after that and has been a regular at Walton Arena to watch games coached by his protege Mike Anderson in recent seasons.

Only two SEC schools have courts named for people: Missouri's Norm Stewart Court and Tennessee's Pat Summitt Court.

Bob Holt of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette contributed information for this story


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Sports on 02/13/2018

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