- Associated Press - Sunday, March 13, 2011

FAYETTEVILLE, ARK. (AP) - Arkansas fired basketball coach John Pelphrey on Sunday and called a news conference to discuss the future of the program.

Pelphrey was 69-59 in four seasons with the Razorbacks, including an 18-13 record this season. Arkansas lost to Tennessee in the opening round of the Southeastern Conference tournament on Thursday.

Pelphrey replaced Stan Heath as coach of the Razorbacks in 2007-08 and finished 23-12. Arkansas advanced to the NCAA tournament that season, defeating Indiana before losing to North Carolina.

The Razorbacks struggled in Pelphrey’s next two seasons, winning 14 games in each. This season will mark the third straight year Arkansas will miss the NCAA tournament.

Athletic director Jeff Long said in a statement that a national search would begin immediately. The school called a 6 p.m. news conference to address the program’s future.

“After a thorough and comprehensive evaluation of our men’s basketball program, including an assessment of the overall student-athlete experience within our program, it is clear that we have not made the progress over the last four years that is necessary to return Razorback basketball to a place of national relevance,” Long said.

Arkansas saw a steady decline in attendance in Pelphrey’s four seasons. The Razorbacks averaged 17,148 in his first season, 16,043 in his second and 13,182 last year. This season, the school averaged 12,022 in 18 games in the 19,200-seat Bud Walton Arena.

During its national championship season of 1993-94, Arkansas averaged 20,134 at home. This season, the school drew a season-high 14,174 for its game against Ole Miss in February.

Two weeks ago, following a home loss to Mississippi State that cost the Razorbacks second place in the SEC West and a bye in the conference tournament, an advertisement ran in the statewide Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The ad called for Razorback fans to contact university officials “on the future of Arkansas basketball before too much times passes.”

It listed addresses for university officials, including the school’s Board of Trustees members. Pelphrey said at the time he wouldn’t be distracted by the ad. He won’t have to worry about it after Sunday.

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