Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Memphis' Athletic Director Should No Longer Be Allowed to Use a Computer

The athletic director at the University of Memphis sent out a communication yesterday. But before I get to that morsel...

If you haven't noticed, the Memphis football program may well be the worst in the nation. It's not just Athlon that says so either. It's on the field. After making Chris Relf look like he didn't have the arm of a 7th grader in the 59-14 first game (Relf threw for 202 in 3/4 of a game) loss to Mississippi State, Memphis journeyed up to Jonesboro, AR and got a beat down of 47-3 from Arkansas State.

Not Arkansas. Arkansas STATE.

I have been anti-Larry Porter just about since he was hired. I was living in Memphis at the time, and was never convinced that he was really a good fit for the job. Bad with the community, bad with the media - and at a time when he wasn't going to be winning any football games. When a coach is in a situation where (for whatever reason) his on-field product is not going to perform in the near term - he needs the people to believe in him and getting the media on your side to use as a tool to keep the expectations low is a good idea. Larry didn't do that.

So, because of these recent beatdowns - and no less a massive beatdown to a Sun Belt this past weekend - the hounds are out. Even after the week 1 loss to State, there was already angst towards the head coach. Athletic director RC Johnson even had to deny to reporters late last week that a blowout loss to Arkansas State wouldn't cost Larry Porter his job. (Memphis was a 17-point dog to Arkansas State.)

Things obviously didn't go well for Memphis. Terrible loss, right? It's an all-time low for the program. Couldn't get any worse...

Then THIS.

via @FantasyRC, confirmed by @DanWolken

RC Johnson sent this email to fans and Tiger football boosters. Really. I couldn't believe it when I saw it.

Now, I'll get to the public relations faux pas, but so you know that RC's already starting to get some heat, that prior to Johnson's email, here was commentary on RC Johnson from the introspective Geoff Calkins of The Commercial Appeal:
He has turned Memphis into — there can no longer be any debate about this — the worst football program in the country.

Can you imagine Johnson starting another football search? Can you imagine him introducing another coach? The notion is preposterous.

You hear all the time about coaches who are fired because they lost the team. Well, Johnson has long since lost the fans. He has no credibility remaining.
Strong stuff from Mr. Calkins.

Here's RC. Crafting up that email.
But honestly, this email is a public relations disaster. I don't think that athletic directors should be "compelled" to communicate anything. At least not ones that are in charge of their program. Is there any communication filter in the UM athletic department? There doesn't appear to be.

I'm sure Calkins will echo his thoughts again in a column this week, but this is really embarrassing for the entire University of Memphis. (UPDATE: He sure did.)

And I bet it's frustrating as well. From hiring Mike Tranghese in another failed effort to align themselves with a BCS conference, to this email which references continued work on facilities. For those of you who have never been, the University of Memphis' athletic facilities do not resemble those of a major college program. I would bet that instead of resembling the offices and stadiums of Auburn, Texas A&M, or Louisville, Memphis' athletic facilities and buildings are much closer to those of, well, Arkansas State. And Memphis just got beat up pretty bad by them this past week.

In the arms race of the 90s and '00s that was the 'Facilities War', Memphis sat it out. Now programs have moved on to using their uniforms as recruiting tactics - they've done so much, they've run out of ways to impress kids. Memphis hasn't done any of this. Except play on national TV with no one in the stands, be ranked at the bottom of the barrel by the magazines, and get your butt kicked by a Sun Belt team - located within your local recruiting area, by the way. The last 15 years of Memphis football have been spent watching pitches go by.

Now, the athletic director is writing emails to the remaining supporters, assuring them they are going to "work harder than ever".

If that's true, I'd say the bar is set pretty low.

This is an athletic department that needs large changes. And desperately.

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