Grow Some Claws

November 17th, 2011

Recently, the University of Memphis launched its 100th anniversary celebration with a Centennial Kickoff Concert on campus at ... no,wait ... not on campus ... at the Cannon Center. The namesake university for Memphis, home of the the blues, birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll, soul of American music, city with a beat, headlined their kickoff gala with our own Justin Timberlake ... no, wait ... not Justin ... with Aaron Neville.


Their own legendary town, their own magnificent university musicians played – literally – second fiddle at their own party to a guy famously from New Orleans. I guess Justin will do the University of New Orleans gig. Or, if they want somebody close to a hundred like Aaron, maybe Jerry Lee.

If you’re a Memphis alum and, as the numbers indicate, not involved with or supportive of your university, you have absolutely nothing to do with the decisions they make, and that’s not fairly representative of them or of this city.

As Aaron himself sang, it’s time to “Tell It Like It Is.”

As published in The Daily News, November 18, 2011, and in The Memphis News, November 10-25, 2011



Statistics show that the people who could help the University of Memphis compete, even win, aren’t even in the game. And I’m not talking football.

One major university with around 25,000 students and a Memphis campus has more than 17,000 local alumni association members. It isn’t the University of Memphis.

Another major university with about 20,000 students boasts more than 9,200 alumni association members in this town. It isn’t the University of Memphis either. It’s not even in this state.

Memphis – 23,000 students right here – comes in a distant third in local alumni association members, trailing UT by 10,000 and Ole Miss by 1,800. Worse, CBU with only 1,700 students and Rhodes with its ivy-covered 1,800 students both have 3,000 more members in their national alumni association than Memphis does.

Some will say Memphis alums have to pay dues. Fine. Ole Miss charges more, and they’re beating the hometown university by a score of 9,200 to 7,350 local alum members. And get this: Northwest Mississippi Community College Alumni Association charges dues, and they’re only 2,300 behind Memphis in local members, and about dead even in total members.

Maybe we should take a stadium full of taxpayer dollars down to DeSoto County and build them a Ranger Lane for their tailgate parties.

If you’re a Memphis alum – if it’s played any part in your life – if you have an inkling of how vital it is for a city to be vitally interested in the major university within its urban core – then it’s time to Tiger up.

It’s you, lots and lots of you, the university lacks and needs.

If the man in charge when Memphis vacated a whole season and a Final Four hasn’t vacated his office – if the same man whose idea of pitching the Big East was sending them a brochure hasn’t been pitched out – that’s not his fault. It’s yours.

If the accomplishments of your students and faculty, if the FedEx Institute of Technology, the College of Communication and Fine Arts, the Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music and so much more remain virtual secrets to so many, there’s really no secret as to why. It’s your fault.

We – taxpayers, corporate sponsors, well-heeled supporters, politicos – cannot continue to front for you, prop you up, build your playgrounds on our property, and applaud the mediocrity of your management’s decisions while you continue to hide by the thousands upon thousands in plain sight.

There. I’ve said it. And I’ll hear about it from folks who blame things on columnists, or UT and Ole Miss, or the media, or whatever, but at least they’ll be heard from. They care.

The university needs to hear from you, its family, or more and more of us are going to care less and less. If you don’t think you’ll make a difference, ask Louisville how they got an on-campus stadium, or Ole Miss why they’re about to get a new coach and athletic director.

I’m a Memphian, and Tiger blue needs to get brighter.


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