THE RAZORBACK'S EDGE
Nolan Richardson's charges of racism sealed his fate and left
Arkansas in disarray
It was a bewildering self-immolation. Reeling from a 13-13
record and the prospect of missing the postseason for the first
time since 1985, Arkansas basketball coach Nolan Richardson
lashed out last week at the local media, unhappy fans and the
school. Most unsettling were his charges of racism--he claimed
Fayetteville's social life was bad for black athletes and that
his bosses treated him differently from the 18 other Arkansas
coaches (none of whom are black) because of his race. Richardson
also blithely suggested that if the school's administrators
wanted to buy out the remaining six years of his seven-year, $7
million-plus contract, "they can take the job
tomorrow"--although until then nobody had broached the idea of
By the time Richardson apologized last Wednesday, the damage had
been done. On Friday, Arkansas AD Frank Broyles announced the
school had bought out Richardson's contract for $3 million over
six years. Assistant coach Mike Anderson was named interim coach.
Richardson referred matters to civil rights lawyer John Walker,
whom he'd hired earlier in the week.
While there's no denying that Richardson has experienced racism
in its ugliest forms--growing up, he would cross the border to
dine at restaurants in Mexico rather than eat in El Paso's
segregated establishments--his frequent and somewhat haphazard
charges of racism through the years have detracted from a Hall of
Fame career. (He's the only coach to have won a national junior
college title, an NIT championship and an NCAA crown.) "If I was
white, and I did what I've done here, they'd build statues to
me," he said in 1994, the year Arkansas won the national title.
At a press conference on Feb. 25 Richardson said, "I know for a
fact that I do not play on the same level as the other coaches
around this school play on." The problem with that is that
Richardson was the highest-paid coach at Arkansas, making
$260,000 a year more than football coach Houston Nutt.
Richardson also blamed "the press and whoever else rips me every
chance they get" for trying to get him fired. An editorial in the
Arkansas Democrat Gazette pointed out that "nobody asked for
coach Richardson's resignation. But he thought he'd offer it up
anyway, and then let everybody know how outraged he was at the
suggestion." Moreover, criticism of Richardson's program wasn't
unwarranted. The Hogs haven't reached the Sweet 16 at the NCAAs
since 1996, in part because of a self-imposed two-season sanction
against recruiting juco players, formerly the lifeblood of
Richardson's program. Also, Arkansas had an unsightly 0%
graduation rate among players who entered the school between 1990
and '94. "[The firing] was not a result of his record this year,"
says university chancellor John White, "except to the extent that
it was affecting Nolan."
Those close to Richardson say his outburst was a long time in
coming. "He just didn't want to coach anymore," says Nolan's
37-year-old son, Nolan III, the coach at Tennessee State. "He was
tiring." The elder Richardson may have been using charges of
racism as a smoke screen, but it shouldn't obscure issues of
discrimination in college hoops. One of the problems with playing
the so-called race card is the fallout it leaves: Whoever
succeeds Richardson will enter a charged environment and will
have to deal with a deeply defensive administration. Says White,
who's white, "I hope the African-American community in Arkansas
does not see this situation as a step backward."
Ultimately, Richardson's departure may be best explained by
something he said in 1994: "I don't want to ever be fired, but I
don't want to be chasing these guys around at 60." Two months
after his 60th birthday, Richardson made sure the second half of
his wish came true, if not the first. --Grant Wahl
SPORTS AND VIAGRA
OFF THE DOLE
Viagra is penetrating the sports market more deeply than ever.
Pfizer, makers of the little blue pills, got things going last
year by sponsoring NASCAR driver Mark Martin, then 42, on the
Winston Cup circuit. In January, Pfizer signed Pele, the
61-year-old soccer god, to promote awareness of erectile
dysfunction, and the company will soon unveil a series of TV and
print ads featuring Rangers first baseman Rafael Palmeiro as part
of a one-year sponsorship deal with Major League Baseball.
On the surface Pfizer's plan is clear--to reach the
overwhelmingly male sports-fan demographic. But the signing of
Palmeiro, 37, also marks an evolution in the company's marketing
strategy. Palmeiro, an active and healthy athlete, projects a
markedly different image than that of Pfizer's first nationally
prominent pitchman, 78-year-old former senator Bob Dole.
Palmeiro's presence may help to erase what Pfizer spokesman
Geoffrey Cook calls "the stigma associated with erectile
It's a stigma that Palmeiro has personally experienced. Shortly
after news of his sponsorship leaked last month, Palmeiro's
agent, Fernando Cuza, said, "I want to be clear that Rafael does
not suffer from this problem. But he knows the size of the
problem." Cuza's comments left observers to ponder the curiosity
of Pfizer hiring a spokesman who denied using its product. On
Monday, Palmeiro set things straight. "The truth is, I, like many
others, do have occasional problems," Palmeiro said in a
statement. "I do, when needed, take Viagra."
Pfizer has also targeted sports fans with its NASCAR promotions,
including setting up mobile health centers at Winston Cup races.
There, male fans can have their cholesterol and blood pressure
checked before completing a survey that asks questions like, "How
would you rate your confidence that you could get and keep an
erection?" The plan seems to be working: Last year some 50,000
men visited the centers.
The Fame Game
Used to be that a conquering hero returned to little more than a
parade and the key to his hometown. Now the tour of fame has
gotten a bit more involved, if no less predictable. Here's a
quick glance at where Salt Lake's hottest names have been
spending (or will spend) their 15 minutes.
TALK SHOW CIRCUIT
Appeared on the Today show. Scheduled to be on The Rosie
O'Donnell Show on March 6.
Scheduled to meet New York governor George Pataki and senators
Hilary Clinton and Chuck Schumer.
Rang opening bell at New York Stock Exchange on Monday.
POP CULTURE POP-UPS
Presenter at Grammy Awards.
Parade in Great Neck, N.Y., scheduled for Sunday.
[TALK SHOW CIRCUIT]
Appeared on the Today show, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The
Rosie O'Donnell Show and Late Night with Conan O'Brien.
Scheduled to ring opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange.
[POP CULTURE POP-UPS]
Scheduled to appear in Giorgio Armani fashion show.
Parade in Seattle (date to be determined)
[TALK SHOW CIRCUIT]
Appeared on the Today show and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
Scheduled for The Rosie O'Donnell Show, Late Night with Conan
O'Brien and The Early Show.
Met President Bush.
Scheduled to ring the opening bell at the New York Stock
[POP CULTURE POP-UPS]
Will appear on The Weakest Link.
Parade held in San Bernardino, Calif., on Feb. 26.
JIM SHEA JR.
[TALK SHOW CIRCUIT]
Appeared on the Today show and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
Met President Bush and New York Governor George Pataki.
[POP CULTURE POP-UPS]
Special guest at Grammy Awards.
Parade held in Lake Placid on March 2.
WHERE YOU'VE SEEN HER As the update anchor on Fox Sports Net's
The Best Damn Sports Show Period. She also does news reports on
the network throughout the day.
WHY YOU'VE PAID ATTENTION In her four years as a sports
journalist, Guerrero has had her share of miniscoops, including
a sit-down interview with Shaquille O'Neal last year after he'd
declared he was boycotting the media. But Guerrero's
picture-perfect looks have also drawn attention--and not all of
it good. Two weeks ago FoxSports.com put up a sultry photo of
Guerrero posing braless with her shirt unbuttoned. The
cheesecake shot had many female journalists up in arms. "It's
frustrating," said Paola Boivin, president of the Association
for Women in Sports Media. "Until there's a level playing field
this hurts female sports journalists." USA Today columnist
Christine Brennan agreed: "It plays to the oldest stereotype,
that women can't be appealing with their brain, only with their
body. How does an athlete take you seriously after you pose like
that?" Yet Guerrero, 37, remains unbowed: "I didn't get the memo
telling me to wear blue suits and not to smile too much. The
image on the website doesn't diminish my ability as a
sportscaster. It's just one facet of who I am."
RESUME After four seasons as a Los Angeles Rams cheerleader,
Guerrero got her break in 1998 as an actress on the NBC soap
Sunset Beach. That same year she was hired to be a weekend sports
reporter for KCBS in L.A. Guerrero juggled both gigs for a short
period before giving up acting and moving to Fox.
CREDO "I understand that the sports establishment is having a
hard time categorizing me. I refuse to be categorized."
Tale of the Tape
The Iditarod began in Anchorage last Saturday, a few weeks after
the Westminster Dog Show in New York. Here's an Iditarod star
next to Ch. Surrey Spice Girl, the Best in Show at Westminster.
About 24 inches high, 42 inches long. Weight: 50 pounds
14 3/4 inches high, 14 3/4 inches long. Weight: 18 pounds
Descendant of Russian sled dogs
A seventh-generation poodle champion
Friendly, often annoyingly so: likes to jump up and lick musher's
Patient, well-behaved and, as show judge W. Everett Dean Jr.
Mushers have dogs run, sled in tow, 100 miles a day for month
Spice let handler spend four hours washing, trimming and
hair-spraying her coat
Two-thirds pound dry dog food; pound of horse, seal, fish or
moose; half pound fat
Two bowls dry dog food; handful home-cooked teriyaki chicken
Cover 1,150 icy miles in about 10 days
No yapping or sneezing as judges inspect every region of body
Compete on contending teams from age 3 to age 8
With 39 best-in-shows, Spice, 3, has retired after an 18-month
Breed, run in recreational teams, go camping
Get haircut, become mother, play with stuffed toys
Potential ticket buyers, by the promoters of the Champions on
Ice show, who are running newspaper ads in which photos of U.S.
figure skaters Sarah Hughes, Michelle Kwan and Sasha Cohen are
shown with medals around their necks, beneath the words DIRECT
FROM SALT LAKE CITY...EXPERIENCE THE OLYMPIC MAGIC! Cohen didn't
medal at the Games; an ice show spokesman says she's wearing the
silver medal she won at January's U.S. Nationals.
The depths of Willis Pond near Boston, divers trying to recover
a piano that, according to legend, Babe Ruth heaved into the
water in 1918. The mission, sponsored by the Restoration
Project, a group that rehabs the mentally ill, is aimed at
ending the curse of the Bambino. "Once we bring this up, the Red
Sox will win," says historian Lee Swanson, who's on the search
By aliens to take performance-enhancing drugs, cross-country
skier Johann Muehlegg of Spain, who was stripped of his Olympic
gold medal in the 50K after testing positive for darbepoetin, a
blood-booster. "I have seen them," said Muehlegg, who will keep
two other golds he won. "I was told what to do by people from the
other side. You might think it's funny, but it has paid off."
From Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, 2000 Olympic
heavyweight wrestling champ Rulon Gardner, who has a severe case
of frostbite. Gardner got lost while snowmobiling on Feb. 14 and
spent 17 hours in -25[degree] weather. His body temperature fell
to 88[degrees] and his toes were frozen. Gardner didn't lose any
digits, but doctors say it's too soon to say whether he'll
In light of fan protests, the Class A Hagerstown Suns' plans to
hold an Osama bin Laden bobblehead doll night.
There are two types of people in the world: those who flip past
the ads in magazines and those, like Doug Powell, who pore over
them, cut them out and save them. Three years ago Powell, 39,
quit his job as a darkroom technician to tend to his collection
of vintage toy ads. Powell estimates that he's gathered between
2,000 and 3,000 such ads, and he has posted several hundred of
them on his website, www.toyadz.com. "Advertisements were my
favorite part of the publications I read as a kid," says Powell,
who makes a living framing and selling ads through his website.
"The site came about when I realized how many people out there
appreciated having a framed memory of their childhood." Powell,
who says he can look at a vintage magazine cover and recall
immediately what ads are inside, notes that most of the ads in
his collection feature athletes. Here are some of them:
PELE for Tang orange drink (1988)
PAUL HORNUNG for Wilson footballs (1961)
JULIUS ERVING and RICK BARRY for Spalding basketballs (1978)
MICKEY MANTLE for the National Youth Sales Club (1963)
Are offshore motorheads ready for the screaming teens of the MTV
set? Backstreet Boy Nick Carter has purchased a 43-foot offshore
racer, which will run in the 2002 circuit of the American
Powerboat Association (APBA). Carter, who lives in Marathon in
the Florida Keys, will sponsor a team captained by his father,
Bob, who'll take the boat to speeds of more than 130 mph. "My dad
always wanted to race, so that's the reason I bought it," says
Nick. "I want to see him race this boat for a couple of years,
and when things start slowing down for me, I might put myself in
the driver's seat." Of course, the teen heartthrob is familiar
with life in the fast lane. He was arrested earlier this year
after a late-night run-in with a police officer at a Tampa
nightclub and last month agreed to enter a pretrial intervention
program.... Hollywood's fascination with the X Games crowd
continues. The latest undertaking: Keep Your Eyes Open, a feature
film set in the extreme sports world. Tamra Davis, who directed
Britney Spears's debut film, Crossroads, is developing the
project with her husband, Beastie Boy Mike D, who'll also
contribute to the sound track. Among the athletes to appear in
the film are BMX rider Mat Hoffman, motocross racer Travis
Pastrana, pro surfer Sunny Garcia and pro skier Seth Morrison....
The parade of jock-rockers marches on. This week's entries
include Falcons defensive back Ray Buchanan, who signed with EMI
to record an R&B-flavored hip-hop album this summer; Broncos
defensive tackle Trevor Pryce, whose recording studio, Outlook
Music, will release its first album, by alt-rock band Roman
Candle, later this month; and boxer Roy Jones Jr., whose debut
album, Round One, was released last week. Of the three, Jones
(above) looks to have the most potential. His single, That Was
Then, has reached No. 3 on Billboard's rap charts. Jones also
wrote or cowrote all 19 songs on Round One, including Who Wanna
Get Knocked Out.
Age that Winnipeg Blue Bombers' punter Bob Cameron will be when
his new contract extension runs out in February 2004, five months
before he'll be eligible to receive his CFL Players' Association
Taxes paid to the Chinese government by Tiger Woods on the
undisclosed appearance fee he earned for playing in an
exhibition in Shenzhen in November 2000, making him the city's
highest taxpayer last year.
Amount pledged, in the first four weeks of fund-raising, by
respondents to the Buy the Expos campaign that a group of Penn
students is running on the Web.
Days after winning the Olympic bronze in women's skeleton that
Britain's Alex Coomber admitted she'd competed with a broken left
arm; Coomber, who was fitted for a cast, had hidden the injury
for fear her coaches would pull her from the competition.
This Week's Sign of the Apocalypse
An Avon (Ind.) High wrestling coach was suspended for two weeks
after biting off the head of a live sparrow in front of his team.
NASCAR driver, on what he saw during an 18-car pileup at the
Daytona 500: "Aw, we have our eyes closed during that stuff."