How UM and Cal Could Make Amends

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In the unlikely event that the University of Memphis successfully claws back some of the loot that was bagged by former basketball coach John Calipari before the 2007-2008 team was stripped of its wins, it should plow the money back into sports.

Club sports and intramurals, that is. Do something for the 19,800 students who are possibly somewhat athletic but are not "student athletes."

There are 400 student athletes, according to Athletic Director R. C. Johnson. Total university enrollment is 20,214, plus 2500 employees. Walking from Patterson Avenue across campus to the Michael Rose Theater for Thursday's glum news conference, I was struck by what a good-looking campus it is. There are new buildings everywhere you look. President Shirley Raines must have heaved a million sighs over the major headaches generated by football and basketball. And women's golf. If you think the basketball program was a mess, read the salacious details of the inquiry into the former coach of the golf team.

You could almost read her face: "Hey, we've got a university here where we're trying to educate people for jobs, not pump them up for ESPN."

On the UM website, there's a neat little video feature with students explaining why they chose UM. Not one of them mentions Coach Cal or the lure of Saturday afternoon football games.

Jon Duncan, head of the office of club sports and intramurals, says only three clubs are active — lacrosse, Ultimate Frisbee, and rugby. The available-but-inactive list includes badminton, Taekwondo, soccer, racquetball (UM was once a powerhouse), softball, and volleyball. Duncan says students initially express enthusiasm but it fades when they see the organizational time involved.

Maybe a little money for marketing, supplies, equipment, travel expenses, and sports fairs for ordinary students would gin up some interest. I don't think the NCAA or President Raines would mind.

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