Players Return To Celebrate 1994 NCAA Title

by Chris Bahn  on Friday, Feb. 15, 2008 3:30 pm  

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SPRINGDALE - This was just the start.

Members of Arkansas' 1994 NCAA basketball championship team were recognized Friday by the Northwest Arkansas Tip-Off Club for their accomplishments. It was the first public recognition of the team since the Razorbacks won the championship, but more - including a formal salute by the university - is on the way.

No celebration was held at the 10-year anniversary. Former Coach Nolan Richardson was fired from the university in 2002 and filed a discrimination lawsuit. Only recently have the two sides begun reaching out to each other.

Players expressed some disappointment that a celebration wasn't held sooner. Corliss Williamson said he believed time would heal some of the wounds and said Friday's celebration was a step in the right direction.

"It was disappointing we didn't get an opportunity to celebrate it at the 10-year mark, but God has a plan for everything. We're here today and we're getting our chance today," Williamson said. "Now the timing is right. It wasn't right before this."

Elmer Martin called the event "overdue."

"Hopefully, we'll have a chance to share this with everybody in the city," Martin added during brief remarks to those in attendance.

Richardson was in attendance along with team members Ray Biggers, Reggie Merritt, John Enskov, Martin, Clint McDaniel, Dwight Stewart, Corey Beck, Scotty Thurman and Williamson.

Ken Biley and Roger Crawford were scheduled to attend, but had last-minute scheduling conflicts. Biley recently welcomed a new baby daughter and Crawford could not travel because of strep throat. Lee Wilson, Darnell Robinson, Davor Rimac and Al Dillard also did not show.

Arkansas vice chancellor and athletics director Jeff Long was among the more than 300 people who attended the celebration. Long and Richardson talked briefly before the event began and both said they plan to meet further in the future.

"I'm an approachable person," Richardson said. "... I'll enjoy sitting down and talking with him."

Long said a formal celebration of the 1994 championship is in the works. Next year marks the 15-year anniversary of the Razorbacks 76-72 victory against Duke.

"There is a time for everything. That time is now," Long said. "I'm going to invite Coach Richardson and the team back to be recognized on the 15-year anniversary of the national championship Certainly, I think the time is right for that. We're excited and already started to put some plans in place for next year."

Former Arkansas player Blake Eddins introduced players from the title team. Eddins is one of the board members for the Tip-Off Club.

"It's really sad we haven't gotten to do this yet," Eddins said. "It's sad we haven't celebrated one of the crowning achievements of the athletic department. This is a gaint step. ...

"I think it would be great to have these guys walk out and be recognized on Nolan Richardson at Bud Walton Arena."

Former Richardson assistant Wayne Stehlik is the president of the Northwest Arkansas Tip-Off Club, presented by Arvest Bank. He was instrumental in luring Richardson to speak to the body last month and Stehlik helped organize the reunion.

Work remains, but Stehlik believes healing has taken place.

"People still have a passion for what this team did," Stehlik said. "The kids wanted to come back. We're really honored to have these guys back.

"This is a good start."



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