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Filling the Void: The Razorbacks Topple Duke, Nolan Richardson Makes History

Nolan Richardson and his “40 Minutes of Hell” Arkansas Razorbacks make history twice in one night.

Razorback Fans by Brandon Rush is licensed under CC BY SA-3.0

Filling the Void: The Razorbacks Topple Duke, Nolan Richardson Makes History


Estimated Reading Time: 3 Minutes

We’re several weeks into our worldwide attempt to “flatten the curve” and have been offering daily escapes into the sporting events of yesteryear through our “Filling The Void” series. We’ve looked back on the inspiring, mind-boggling, and remarkable events as well as the ordinary, daily games we’ve been missing in our lives. We here at The Turf Sports sincerely hope you and your loved ones are staying healthy and being safe through these trying days. We’d also like to take a moment to send out a huge THANK YOU to all of those front-line folks keeping society going – from the medical community to those stocking grocery store shelves, delivering supplies around the country or helping us all fight this virus together in some other essential, invaluable way. You are all heroes.

On another note, we here at The Turf have always been of the mind that standing up for what is right and standing up in opposition to hate and violence is necessary. For resources on how to help the fight against systemic racism in the United States please check out the following links: Black Visions CollectiveLGBTQ Freedom FundNational Bail FundReclaim the BlockColor of Change, and Black Lives Matter

Today: Nolan Richardson’s 1994 Arkansas Razorbacks win the whole thing.



The 1994 NCAA Championship game didn’t boast the most star-studded lineups. Of the 17 players to enter the game tonight, only six will play in the NBA. Of those six, the only two you’re probably aware of are Corliss Williamson and Grant Hill. Aside from that, this was your run of the mill “Duke vs. Everybody” National Championship Game, right?

Not quite.

This game will make history when the Razorbacks pull out the win because Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson will have become the second black head coach to win the Division I NCAA National Championship. Richardson was the mastermind behind Arkansas’ “40 Minutes of Hell,” which is exactly what it sounds like.

The first black head coach to win it all? John Thompson and his Georgetown Hoyas, 10 years and two days prior to Arkansas.

Since Thompson and Richardson raised banners, only two other black head coaches have won a National Championship. Tubby Smith and his Kentucky Wildcats won the whole thing in 1998, and most recently Kevin Ollie and his UConn Huskies in 2014. That’s it. In the 80 years that we’ve had a National College Basketball Tournament, only four black coaches have won it all.

In 2019, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published an article about this issue. “Of the 75 programs in college basketball’s six major conferences, only 14 have a black head coach (18.7%). If the count is limited to the so-called Power Five leagues, eliminating the Big East and its five black head coaches, that number dips to 13.8%. The percentage of black head coaches in those six conferences is lower now than it was during the 1996-97 season.”

What does this have to do with the 1994 Razorbacks?

In 2002, Richardson got into a dispute with Athletic Director Frank Broyles over his compensation and his treatment as a black coach. Instead of paying him more, Broyles and the University opted to buy him out of his contract.

Richardson sued the University and Broyles, but the case was dismissed by a U.S. District Judge who stated the case was based on “wounded pride.”

“I did not come over on that ship, so I expect to be treated a little bit differently. Because I know for a fact that I do not play on the same level as the other coaches around this school play on. I know that. You know it. And people of my color know that. And that angers me.”

Nolan Richardson would never coach college basketball again. When asked about it years later, Richardson said:

“I’m sure that after what happened to me at the University of Arkansas, I became, in the eyes of the guys who do the hiring and firing in college basketball, an uppity guy.”


We here at The Turf have always been of the mind that standing up for what is right and standing up in opposition to hate and violence is necessary. For resources on how to help the fight against systemic racism in the United States please check out the following links: Black Visions CollectiveLGBTQ Freedom FundNational Bail FundReclaim the BlockColor of Change, and Black Lives Matter

Justin Colombo is a 2017 Broadway Show Softball League All-Star at 3B/SS. He's essentially the Manny Machado of the Kinky Boots team. Justin has been writing about Baseball since he was a little kid. Now that being an actor in NYC has given him a lot of free time, in 2015 he decided to take his passion public and founded Three Up, Three Down as a way to express his love for the game. From there, Three Up, Three Down grew from a hobby to an obsession. After years of growth and one insult from MLB's Historian, Justin launched The Turf, a way to expand into all areas of the sporting world. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter. LET'S. GO. METS.

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