FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas fired women’s basketball coach Tom Collen on Friday, bringing a close to a disappointing stretch for the program.
The Razorbacks (19-11) lost in the first round of the Southeastern Conference tournament to Mississippi on Wednesday, the eighth time in nine seasons they’ve failed to advance past the opening game.
Collen was 132-90 in seven seasons at Arkansas after being hired away from Louisville. However, the school reached the NCAA tournament just once, during the 2011-12 season, and the Razorbacks were 40-68 in SEC play — including a 6-10 finish this season.
Athletic director Jeff Long says the program hasn’t “made the progress necessary” to compete in the SEC, and that a national search will begin immediately to find his replacement.
“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,” Long said in a statement.
Collen made $415,691 annually and was under contract through March of 2016. He’ll be paid $250,000 for each of the next two seasons as part of a buyout agreement in his contract.
Collen was an assistant coach at Arkansas under former coach Gary Blair from 1993-97 before becoming the head coach at Colorado State. He went 129-33 in five seasons there, earning national coach of the year honors in 1993 after 33-3 season.
The Ohio native was hired at Louisville following the 2002 season and coached there for four seasons, going 88-37 and reaching the NCAA tournament in his last three years.
He was brought to Arkansas with the hopes of rekindling the excitement around a program that had largely floundered since Blair left for Texas A&M in 2003.
However, despite success in nonconference play, Collen’s teams largely struggled in the SEC. The Razorbacks had just one winning season in conference play, a 10-6 mark during the 2011-12 season — Collen’s only team to reach the NCAA tournament.
“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 a statement.