Positive drug tests, suspension add to Arkansas' woes

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Two Arkansas basketball players tested positive for marijuana recently, and one is under academic suspension -- another black eye for a program that remains without a coach after Dana Altman returned to Creighton on Tuesday.

Altman's departure prompted plenty of speculation around Arkansas, and the athletic department took the unusual step Wednesday of issuing a news release regarding the "rumors, innuendoes and questions."

The school said in the release that two basketball players tested positive for marijuana. Random drug testing, a normal athletic department practice, took place March 27, and although results were received March 29, the school said "appropriate personnel did not receive notification until Tuesday."

The school did not release the names of those who tested positive, citing federal privacy laws.

The school also said one basketball player was suspended for academic reasons.

Arkansas fired Stan Heath on March 26. Heath was then hired by South Florida.

Arkansas held a news conference introducing Altman on Monday. The next day, Altman announced he would remain the coach at Creighton.

In Omaha, Neb., on Wednesday, Altman said he returned to Creighton because of his ties to the school and area. He said nothing he discovered in Arkansas made him change his mind.

"My decision was with the heart and something I needed to do," he said.

Chancellor John A. White said Arkansas offered to make any changes Altman felt necessary to help students' academics.

"In our conversations yesterday, Coach Altman assured me that his decision to remain at Creighton University was based on a personal and a private desire by himself and his family to stay at the university where he has coached for 13 years," White said in the news release. "I accepted Coach Altman's statement to me and later to the media as an accurate reflection of his difficult decision."

White said Arkansas has a "strict policy" addressing substance abuse, and that "any academically at-risk student is reported immediately to each coach. Subsequently, we monitor the academic performance of these students and hold meetings weekly to evaluate their progress."

B. Alan Sugg, president of the University of Arkansas System, met with White and athletic director Frank Broyles on Wednesday.

"I am reassured by today's briefing from Chancellor White and Coach Broyles, and I am confident about the future of our men's basketball program. I'm quite certain that we will secure an outstanding coach very soon," Sugg said.

White and Broyles announced the school was turning to Parker Executive Search, a firm that helped Minnesota land Tubby Smith and has been helping Kentucky with its coaching search.

Arkansas' athletic program has been in turmoil recently. Coach Houston Nutt's football team went 10-4 last season, but the Razorbacks' offensive coordinator left after one season, and prized freshman quarterback Mitch Mustain is set to transfer.

Broyles, 82, announced in February he will retire at the end of the year.

Now, the basketball program is making headlines. During its search, Arkansas eyed Texas A&M coach Billy Gillispie and received permission to talk to Memphis coach John Calipari. Altman finally took the job -- but not for long.

"I know this is a difficult time for all Razorback fans and people who love our university," said Stanley Reed, chairman of the system board of trustees. "It is important that we all pull together and work toward the bright future that awaits our men's basketball program."