Hapless Iowa fires coach

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa athletic director Gary Barta saw the Hawkeyes rack up loss after loss in an often half-empty arena and decided he'd seen enough.

Though coach Todd Lickliter was at Iowa for only three seasons, Barta felt he couldn't afford to bring him back for a fourth.

The Hawkeyes fired Lickliter on Monday, ending a brief and disappointing tenure that included three losing seasons in a row and a parade of players leaving the once-proud program. Barta cited Iowa's slumping record, lagging attendance and dwindling revenue from ticket sales and contributions.

Lickliter, 54, had four years left on a seven-year contract that paid him $1.2 million a year. Barta said the Hawkeyes will pay Lickliter roughly $2.4 million for the remainder of the contract.

"If you take a look at our competitive record the past three years, it has not been improving. It still continues to be below where we would expect," Barta said. "Our attendance and season-ticket sales have continued to go down. This is not something that started three years ago, but in the past three years, it has continued to go down dramatically."

Barta said there will be no timeline on hiring a new coach, though he hopes to do it quickly.

MORE FIRINGS: Kirk Speraw is out after 17 years as UCF's coach. Speraw was fired after a 15-17 season, ending one of the nation's longest active tenures. He finished as the school's winningest coach at 279-233. … Charlotte fired coach Bobby Lutz after his 12th year at his alma mater was marred by a late collapse and a costly blunder in a first-round loss in the Atlantic 10 tournament. Lutz leaves as the school's winningest coach at 218-158.

CALHOUN'S ASSURANCE: Jim Calhoun said it became difficult to persuade players to come to Connecticut when other people were telling them he's about to retire. He said that's why he issued a statement last week reiterating that he and the school are on the verge of signing a multiyear contract. "The reason that we announced something that we already knew is that we were getting killed on the recruiting trails," Calhoun said.

AP POLL: Kansas was a unanimous No. 1, its 15th week this season on top of the rankings.

ARKANSAS: Coach John Pelphrey shifted assistant coach Isaac Brown to an administrative position and is looking to hire a new staff member.

UCLA: A felony assault charge was dropped against forward Nikola Dragovic, who was accused of assaulting a man after a concert in Hollywood.

SETON HALL WOMEN: Phyllis Mangina resigned as coach after 25 seasons in which she went 352-368.

Long road to play-in

DAYTON, Ohio — Arkansas-Pine Bluff went on a brutal barnstorming tour to open the season, visiting 10 states in two months.

Where did it get them? Nowhere, really.

When the calendar changed, the Golden Lions were 0-11. Yet they eventually found their way and are finishing in the one place they've never been: the NCAA Tournament.

Pine Bluff (17-15) plays Winthrop (19-13) in the opening round at 7:30 tonight at the University of Dayton Arena, the annual game between the tournament's lowest seeds.

The winner plays Duke, the South Region No. 1 seed, on Friday in Jacksonville.

"It was tough, but the experience and being able to be in front of those crowds actually built us up for our tournament and conference schedule," guard Terrence Calvin said. "It made us a better team in the long run."

Winthrop, too, knows about turnarounds.

The Eagles started 5-9 but won 14 of their past 18, including the conference tournament title, to reach the NCAA Tournament for the ninth time since 1999.

SAD NEWS: The mother of Murray State reserve guard Picasso Simmons was killed in a car crash on the eve of the team's departure for the NCAA Tournament.

Freeda Simmons died in Nashville, Murray State spokesman Dave Winder said. Her son is planning to go to the Racers' first-round game Thursday against Vanderbilt in San Jose, Calif.

Simmons' mother ran track at Murray in the early 1980s.

Hapless Iowa fires coach 03/16/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 16, 2010 12:29am]

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