FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas women’s basketball coach Tom Collen has been fired after completing his seventh season with the program.
Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long announced his decision Friday afternoon, two days after the Razorbacks suffered a first-round loss to Ole Miss in the Southeastern Conference Tournament. Long said in a news release he believes “a change in leadership is appropriate” after the Razorbacks went 19-11, 6-10 in the SEC.
“Our program has not made the progress necessary to position Razorback women’s basketball to challenge for Southeastern Conference championships and consistently compete in the NCAA Tournament,” Long said. “The goals for our women’s basketball program remain the same and we will conduct a search to identify a head coach who we believe can help us attain those goals.
“I want to thank Tom and his staff for their hard work and dedication to the Razorback program and to our women’s basketball student-athletes. I am appreciative of their efforts on behalf of the University of Arkansas.”
Collen went 132-90 in seven seasons, but it included a 40-68 mark in SEC games.
He directed Arkansas into the Women’s National Invitation Tournament four times in seven seasons. The program reached the NCAA Tournament once in seven seasons, advancing to the second round in 2012.
Arkansas started strong this season, racing out to a 13-0 record in nonconference games. But the Razorbacks struggled throughout SEC play with a young roster, which included six freshmen and two sophomores among its 11 players.
The Razorbacks, who were the 11th seed in the SEC Tournament, lost to 14-seed Ole Miss 63-62. Arkansas squandered a 10-point lead in the final five minutes.
Collen came to Arkansas after coaching stints at Colorado State and Louisville. He also was an assistant to former Arkansas coach Gary Blair in the 1990s.
“I appreciate the opportunity that I have been given at the University of Arkansas and I’m disappointed my time here is coming to an end,” Collen said in the news release. “I said when I was hired that coming to Arkansas was like coming home and I still believe that. I am grateful to Chancellors (Dave) Gearhart and John White, Jeff Long and Bev Lewis for the opportunity they gave me to return to the University of Arkansas and work with the women’s basketball program.”
Collen earned $415,691 under the terms of his contract, which ran through March 23, 2016. He will be paid approximately $100,000 for the remainder of this contract year, which runs through March 23. Collen also will receive $250,000 a year for the two remaining years on his contract, according to the university’s terms for terminating his agreement for convenience.
An Arkansas spokesperson also said Collen will receive an additional $75,000 he had already accrued in a deferred compensation agreement. All compensation, except for the $75,000 in deferred compensation, is subject to mitigation.
Long was not available for comment Friday, but said in the news release he was beginning a national search for Collen’s replacement immediately.
“I am proud that I have poured my heart and soul into making this a great program,” Collen said in the news release. “The people of the state of Arkansas deserve that. I know that the administration will work hard to secure a great coach and a great leader as they move forward. I wish the administration and, most importantly the players, the best of luck. I know they will be successful in the future.”