VOL. 126 | NO. 236 | Monday, December 5, 2011
A story from The Memphis News
On newsstands throughout the city
Holiday Cheer Has New Meaning in Town
The Memphis News
Christmas came early for Memphis sports fans. It arrived the weekend after Thanksgiving.
First, the NBA announced it had resolved its labor dispute and would resume Christmas Day. The next day, the University of Memphis fired football coach Larry Porter, whose two-year tenure included just three victories.
But the mood grew even more festive the following day when – during the Porter-is-gone press conference – U of M athletic director R.C. Johnson said he would retire in June.
Grizzlies and Tiger fans rejoiced upon hearing these announcements, albeit for vastly different reasons.
Grizzlies supporters hope to see the city’s lone professional franchise recapture the magic created last spring when Memphis made a stirring run through the playoffs, beating favored San Antonio in the opening round before losing to Oklahoma City in the conference semifinals.
With the team’s young nucleus back, including a healthy Rudy Gay and a hopefully re-signed Marc Gasol, Memphis boasts as much potential as any squad and will look to go further in the 2012 postseason.
Of course, questions abound regarding whether or not fan support deteriorated during the work stoppage. A small market like Memphis, where the crowds have often been paltry and which is still mired in a struggling economy, might not roll out the red carpet for the team’s return. But for those who still wear their “Believe Memphis” T-shirts around town, the opening game can’t come soon enough.
Meanwhile, Tiger Nation is buzzing because of big changes on the horizon. Not only is the university looking for a splashy hire to pull its dismal football program from the dregs, but it also seeks a visionary athletic director who can help Memphis compete in a new era of college sports.
With football the driving factor in conference realignment, something Memphis has been shut out of so far, these two hires could be the most important in school history.
The fate of the football program is now in the hands of an outside firm and a school search committee – which doesn’t include Johnson.
Memphis has never been a football school, but Tiger fans hope the right coach can bring some cachet and respectability to the one sport that can truly make or break an athletic department’s budget.
As sports fans revel in these developments, so does The Memphis News. This paper launched sports coverage (see Pages 12, 24-25) three weeks ago with reporter Don Wade and other staff members contributing news and commentary. So as long as the Grizzlies and Tigers – along with the minor league teams, pro tournaments and recreational sports that abound in this city – provide compelling stories, we will be there to cover them.