A federal judge yesterday dismissed Nolan Richardson's $8 million race discrimination lawsuit against the University of Arkansas, but said he understood why the fired basketball coach felt the way he did.

"This lawsuit is not about money in the pejorative sense," U.S. District Judge William R. Wilson wrote. "It is primarily about wounded pride -- wounded pride in a man who started way behind, but climbed to the top by hard work, savvy, and most of all, perseverance."

Wilson ruled that Richardson was fired because of comments he made after a February 2002 loss at Kentucky that the university could buy out his contract, not because of his race or comments the ex-coach made about race.

University lawyer Phil Kaplan said the ruling was a "fine conclusion to an unfortunate episode we now hope will all be behind us."

Said Richardson: "Just getting to court was a victory. People know Nolan Richardson, know he will fight . . . to the end."

* GOLF: Jose Coceres birdied eight of his first 11 holes and shot a 9-under 62 to take a one-stroke lead in the opening round of the John Deere Classic in Silvis, Ill. . . .

Gil Morgan shot a 7-under 65, one shot short of his own first-round record, in the Senior Players Championship in Dearborn, Mich., for a three-stroke lead over six players. . . .

U.S. Women's Open champion Meg Mallon had a 7-under 65 to take a two-stroke lead in the first round of the Canadian Women's Open in Niagara Falls, Ontario. . . .

Jose Manuel Lara shot a 6-under 65 and was tied for the lead with Phillip Price and 50-year-old Eduardo Romero in the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond.

* COLLEGES: Villanova's men's basketball team was placed on two years' probation by the NCAA for recruiting and benefits violations. The Wildcats will not be subject to a postseason ban or loss of scholarships. . . .

The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference plans to strip Florida A&M of its 2000 and 2001 football titles and nine other championships for 196 NCAA rule violations, most dealing with the academic eligibility of student-athletes.

* HOCKEY: Joe Thornton, the Boston Bruins captain and leading scorer last season, has signed an agreement to play for Swiss Elite team Club Davos next season if the NHL season is postponed by a lockout, his agent confirmed.

-- From News Services