Memphis Tigers Basketball

A Trail Of Tears: Memphis the Next School Hurt by Calipari Departure

KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 19:  Head Coach John Calipari of the Memphis Tigers yells from the sideline during their  first round game against the CSUN Matadors in the first half of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at the Sprint Center on March 19, 2009 in Kansas City, Missouri. The Tigers defeated the Matadors 81-70.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
David SanchiricoCorrespondent IMay 29, 2009

Wherever John Calipari goes, the wins come for the ride.

There is no question that Calipari, who tallied a record of 252-69 while coaching the Memphis Tigers, can attract talent wherever he is coaching; exactly why the University of Kentucky decided to throw $31.65 million at his feet.

The talent level for Calipari's teams? High. Very High. Calipari has coached numerous All-Americans.

The character level? Well, just look at Marcus Camby. The former UMass star was paid $28,000 and given numerous luxuries—including the service of prostitutes—by agents.

So that 1996 Final Four appearance by Calipari's Minutemen? Never happened.

You can also view Calipari's graduation rates at Memphis. Better than the 0 percent rate Memphis had before Calipari started coaching at FedEx Forum, but still not good.

Now look at Derek Rose, Calipari's stud freshman that guided the Memphis Tigers to the 2008 NCAA Championship game. With the recent allegations that a player on Memphis' 2007-2008 roster—identified by sources as Rose—had someone else take the SAT for them, more and more is being revealed about the kind of players Calipari is bringing into his program.

It's looking like the NCAA could wipe out Memphis' '07-'08 campaign.

Poof. No Final Four appearances for Calipari.

Regardless of speculation, both UMass and Memphis were successful under the guidance of Calipari. During his reign from '88-'96, UMass won the Atlantic-10 Conference four times.

This all culminated in 1996 when UMass went most of the season undefeated. Their run ended in the National Semifinals.

Calipari left for a juicy contract in the NBA before Camby's situation arose.

Calipari did not feel the burn from Camby-gate, but UMass did. They lost their benefits from the successful season and have never recovered. They made the NCAA Tournament two years after Cali's departure, but have been relegated to a middle-of-the-pack A-10 team ever since.

The Mullens Center, the arena Calipari pushed to be built on the Amherst, Mass. campus, remains relatively empty during Minutemen game. What once was a basketball-crazy campus now averages a little more than 5,000 fans at home basketball games.

May Memphis follow UMass' footsteps into mid-major mediocrity?

Before Calipari moved to Graceland in 2000, the Tigers' basketball program was in better shape than UMass'. They had been to 11 NCAA Tournaments in the '80s and '90s but were not consistent enough to be considered a power.

The smooth coach changed that with the talent he started to bring in. With players like Darius Washington Jr., Memphis began to make a turnaround. They made the tournament in '03 and except for an off-year in '05 have made it ever since.

Still, college basketball critics speculated concerning Cali's recruiting. They did not fully believe the successful coach, or players, were playing by the book.

The accusations of Rose prove them to be true, and now it looks as if Memphis could suffer. The university was notified by the NCAA in January about their investigation on Rose. Did this provide more motivation for Calipari to skip town?

Regardless, the move took the wind away from Memphis' sails. It has hurt their fan base and recruiting. John Wall, a top recruit who was deciding between Memphis and Kentucky, among others, joined Calipari en route to Lexington.

The situations between Memphis and UMass are eerily similar. "Sleek and successful coach moves on to bigger and better pastures while the old school suffers from the coach's questionable ways."

One benefit from this: Memphis can start over and build a respectable, powerful program.

The right way.

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