I blacked out everyone's name except Cal's daughter, not because this came from a private forum, but because it makes me look like an investigator of some sort and makes my work look awesome. Mind you, this WHOLE EXCHANGE showed up on the PUBLIC U. of Memphis network, for all to see. Stay away from me, Corey B Trotz. You are, for once, not the way to go.
First of all, the initial status update about John Calipari taking the money is dumb. Everyone knows by now he wanted to coach at Kentucky. The issue most Tiger fans have is that he has, self-admittedly, wanted to coach at Kentucky since 1992. This isn't bad in and of itself. However, in light of all the things he has said over the years about Memphis, Calipari appears to have simply used the Tigers as fertile soil from which he can reap a vast harvest... at the University of Kentucky. Geez. Another farming analogy. I don't know what my deal is lately. I swear we're not all hicks in the South, people. We're gangsters.
Anyway, the move obviously wasn't about money. As his daughter quickly follows up, Cal would've gotten more money if he had stayed. This is probably where Fred Smith and the other big boosters come into play. Rumor has it they stopped by the Calipari residence Monday night and offered him the change leftover in their pockets, and by change I mean the kind of money that makes our pick-pocketing new president salivate. Obama was so happy about the money Calipari was going to receive that he went and splurged on a new iPod to give to the Queen of England. Isn't that super rad and hip of our president?
So after the obligatory suck-up comments from the "follow your dream" crowd, we get a somewhat disconcerting message from Little Miss Cal... "and memphis treats him like this? obviously it was the right decision." Eck. As mad as I am about the Rape and Pillage of the Memphis Tigers, her message made me feel strange.
On the one hand, thousands and thousands of Tiger fans could respond similarly with, "and cal treats us like this? obviously it was bushleague." They would be correct. The upcoming year has been heralded as the Tiger's prize after so many years of coming up short. Four years of making it to at least the Sweet 16... The supposed new schedule with some combination of Kansas, Duke, UNC, Louisville... Oh, yes, and the number one recruiting class in history. These are the stories that kept many fans devout through the first couple rough months of this past season. Even the loss to Missouri was seen as merely the last speed bump until the Year of the Tiger, when everything in Memphis falls into place.
Then two days after John Calipari lands in Memphis, he becomes the highest paid coach in NCAA basketball... at Kentucky. Sweet 16s? Probably done. Formidable out of conference match-ups? Definitely done. Number one recruiting class in history? Either heading to Kentucky or breaking up and moving in different directions. After all the years of Calipari tickling the ears of Tiger fans, this is what the Year of the Tiger has become. Disaster.
On the other hand, Megan Calipari may have a point. Where was Memphis before John Calipari? Not quite circling the drain, but looking up at plenty of teams (most of whom managed to escape the CUSA by 2005). While it took several years to build, Calipari had Memphis believing. The belief was validated by success in the NIT and then great success in the NCAA tournament.
So do Tiger fans have the right to hate on Calipari? Hate is such a strong word for someone who gave Memphis so many good memories. There is definitely room for bitterness and anger, as he's leaving the program barely better than he found it. Yet, something unique happened during Calipari's career here. The city rallied behind the team. The people supported the team. Local businesses and business people fought to keep the team happy and successful. In this sense, Calipari is leaving the program in better shape than he found it. He's leaving it in the hands of so many people who so passionately want to rally behind the team. While the anger and grumbling may last for a short time, the hope for the success of the Memphis Tigers is alive and well. We will respond. While this may not quite be the Year of the Tiger, it may become the Year of the Tiger Fan.