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« 1994 »

On April 5, 1994, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette hailed tidings that Hogs fans already knew and yet wanted to read all about: The University of Arkansas Razorbacks basketball team was the NCAA Division I national champion — for the first time.

After out-pointing 61 other teams in the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s annual single-elimination tournament, the Hogs conquered Duke University’s determined Blue Devils, 76-72, at Charlotte Coliseum in North Carolina.

Coverage began on Page 1 with staff writer Bob Holt’s game story from Charlotte and color from Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville written by staff writer Pete Perkins. Perkins depicted 10,000 fans decked in red and white gasping, booing and screaming at three big screens as though the game was unfolding on the floor before them.

Inside the paper, a four-page pullout wrapped the Sports section. Columnist Wally Hall extolled Coach Nolan Richardson’s accomplishments and humanity, evoking memories of daughter Yvonne, who died of leukemia at 15. Capitol Bureau reporter Rachel O’Neal reported on political ads aired during the tournament. Staff writer Frank Fellone chatted with funny fans. Reporter Beck Cross watched the game with Little Rock Parkview Coach Charles Ripley. Photographers Staton Breidenthal and David Gottschalk froze time with their cameras.

Richardson had arrived at the coliseum annoyed by what he said was national commentators’ racially motivated disrespect for his team’s intelligence. It was easy to find evidence of respect lacking, as Democrat Gazette’s senior sports analyst Orville Henry wrote: Final Four T-shirts on sale at Charlotte listed Michigan where they should have named Arkansas. And Missouri Coach Norm Stewart, whose record didn’t match up to Richardson’s, was named NCAA Coach of the Year.

Tidbits studded the special section: Guests in President Bill Clinton’s private box included Oliver Miller, a 6-foot-9 center for the Phoenix Suns who had played on the Razorbacks’ 1990 Final Four team. … Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker bet North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt 20 pounds of smoked pork that the Razorbacks would win. Hunt put up 20 pounds of turkey. “It is common knowledge that Razorbacks are far superior in both agility and stamina to turkey,” Tucker said. “Besides, turkeys are the only known animal that will stand in the rain until they drown.” … To pass anxious hours, Nolan Richardson’s wife, Rose, bought $500 worth of collectible figurines.

And Arkansas Athletic Director Frank Broyles, 69, who had just spent five days in the hospital with a heart problem, had obeyed doctor’s orders and did not watch the game. But he knew the outcome at 10:16 p.m. when the pandemonium inside Bud Walton Arena was echoed across the UA campus.

Broyles told the newspaper, “I’m thrilled like I died and went to heaven.”

— Celia Storey

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