Flyer senior editor Michael Finger relates his experience in getting Tennessee a handgun permit in this week's cover story.
While the nation rages against AIG for its bonuses, there's another lively debate going on in the national media -- although not in Memphis for reasons that are not clear -- over coaches' salaries and whether college athletes should be paid for their services.
On Thursday, The New York Times published a group of opinion pieces under the title "March Money Madness" with different points of view about paying athletes. On Friday, The Wall Street Journal published a column "The Real March Madness" that said athletes should be paid because "the players who entertain us receive compensation that amounts to only a very small percentage of what they would have earned if they had sold their services in a competitive market."
The Journal story noted that the University of Tennessee announced this year that one of its assistant football coaches, Ed Orgeron, will be paid $650,000 while head coach Lane Kiffin makes $2 million, which is not unusual for head coaches in the Southeastern Conference.
The University of Tennessee and the University of Memphis are obvious focal points for stories about compensation for coaches and athletes. UT, a football powerhouse until last season, has a football coaching salary pool of $5.325 million a year and the team usually plays before more than 100,000 fans at home. Womens basketball coach Pat Summitt and mens basketball coach Bruce Pearl and their teams generally draw more than 20,000 fans to home games.
The University of Memphis, of course, is a basketball powerhouse presently making its annual run for the Final Four. Head coach John Calipari has been named Coach of the Year and is paid $2.5 million a year plus incentives. One of the keys to his success has been recruiting star players such as DaJuan Wagner and Derrick Rose who stay in school for a year before going pro and becoming instant multi-millionaires.
The University of Memphis football team, despite going to bowl games for five of the last six years, is not a moneymaker or a fan favorite. Last week, Cindy Buchanan, head of the Memphis Division of Parks and Recreation, told City Council members that actual game attendance is sometimes 7,000 to 9,000, although the university reports average tickets sold of 25,000. Head football coach Tommy West is paid at least $925,000 plus incentives.
There is another difference between UT and UM. UT posts its salaries on its website but UM doesn't. So reporting salaries necessarily relies on second-hand sources and a certain amount of guesswork.
That may be coming to an end. The costs and benefits of college athletics are likely to get more scrutiny as universities trim their budgets in the recession, corporations and wealthy boosters cut back their donations, and Memphis and other city governments demand that tenants pay their own way to use public facilities. If the cost of making Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium modern and compliant with ADA standards is really $40 million, then taxpayers can reasonably be expected to ask if that makes sense when there are nine games a year and some of them attract 7,000 fans. Some brave heretic might even ask if it makes sense for UM to play bigtime football and if all the money spent on coaches and scholarships might better be spent somewhere else.
And as March Madness continues, the familiar debate over paying athletes is boiling up again even though Memphis sports reporters confine themselves to game coverage. The explanation for that one is easy: salaries are a touchy subject. As Richard Vedder and Matthew Denhart wrote in the Wall Street Journal Friday, Connecticut basketball coach Jim Calhoun went into a tirade when a blogger questioned his $1.6 million annual salary.
"Those high salaries are financed from the talents of unpaid student-athletes," the authors wrote. "Talk about income inequality. So not only are the young being exploited, but the exploitation is being committed by their adult mentors."
To put this in Memphis perspective, Memphis player Roburt Sallie "earned" hundreds of thousands of dollars if not millions for his coach and his university when he scored 35 points in an opening tournament game this week but nothing for himself. And when FedExForum hosts Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight games next week, the city and hotels and restaurants and the arena will profit handsomely, but the players will get television coverage and scholarships but no big money until the stars among them turn pro.
Does this make sense? Well, former star player and ESPN studio analyst Bill Walton thinks so. As he wrote in the Times, "The young players entering the college game know the rules going in. They are being given a chance to make something of their lives in exchange for the privilege of being an NCAA student athlete."
On the other hand, Ellen Staurowsky, a professor of sports management at Ithaca College in New York, says, "Should more money trickle down to athletes who essentially work for the university? Definitely."
Then there's William Dowling, an English professor at Rutgers, who writes in the Times: We shouldnt be worrying about exploited athletes -- few really are. Nor should be we worried about steering TV money to academics. Real colleges and universities -- New York University, say, or Harvard or the University of Chicago -- have ways of paying academic costs without prostituting themselves to commercialized athletics. The solution is to end the prostitution itself."
So what's your view, Memphians?
What's better than watching tough women throwing down in a rugby match? Watching those tough women play in tacky prom dresses, that's what. Don't miss the Memphis Women's Rugby Prom Dress Game on Saturday at East High School. The kick-off is at noon.
Sales of local art, fabrics, jewelry, and other gift items at the "Arts of March" party on Saturday night will benefit the Church Health Center's mission of providing medical care for the uninsured. Shoppers will be treated to live music by the Delta Nomads and Lila & Her Soulful Ensemble of Musicians. The sale runs from 6 to 10 p.m. at Inbalance Fitness.
Take a trip back to the psychedelic 1960s at Rebirth of Soul's Jimi Hendrix Tribute at the New Daisy on Saturday night. The Eugene Gales Band, a local group that's played with the nationally known Experience Hendrix tour, will cover Hendrix classics, beginning at 8 p.m. Rolling Stone Magazine named rapper Lil' Wayne's album Tha Carter II the third-best album of 2008. See why when he performs live at the FedExForum on Sunday night with T-Pain, the Gym Class Heroes, and Keri Hilson. The show begins at 7 p.m.
For more weekend fun, check out the Flyer's searchable online calendar.
Can't get enough of brackets?
We have another one for you. A toe-to-toe match-up of all of your favorite Memphians.
Following the lead of American Idol, we pit Alexis Grace against Lil Rounds. Will the result be the same as it was last night?
In other battles, Al Green takes on B.B. King; Steve Cohen takes on Steve Gaines; Drake goes up against Zeke.
You pick the winners. First round begins today and second round will begin Saturday.
Voting is split up into the same "regions" as your NCAA bracket - Midwest, West, East, and South. Based on your voting, the winners will square off just like in the tournament. Saturday we'll be down to 16, so check back and vote again!
Have fun! Voting begins ... now!
One of the most widely anticipated matchups in the Flyer's "Memphis Celebrity Madness" tournament was the showdown between the paper's own Jackson Baker and John Branston (West Bracket, Position 7, "Pick the Flyer Writer".
Regrettably, that game, regarded by knowledgeable touts as key to the tournaments ultimate winner, has been canceled, due to the withdrawal of Baker, whose trick knee, incurred over the years in the course of obstructing political ignorance and wickedness, has acted up at just the wrong time.
"And let me confess, that Branston would have been a toughie. He's the guy to beat, and I didn't want to be responsible for taking him out!" said Baker. "Besides that, I think we should have some solidarity here in Flyerville. Let's give the big guy a bye before he goes up against Thaddeus or Chris Peck or somebody like that."
New York state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who had issued subpoenas for the records, welcomed the decision by Justice Bernard J. Fried of the New York state Supreme Court, who ruled against the company's claim that releasing the names would be akin to revealing a trade secret
"Todays decision in the Bank of America case is a victory for taxpayers. Let the sun shine in. Justice Frieds decision will now lift the shroud of secrecy surrounding the $3.6 billion in premature bonuses Merrill Lynch rushed out in early December. Taxpayers demand and deserve transparency and now they will finally get it.
"Bank of America chose litigation over transparency and we are gratified that this tactic has failed. AIG should take heed and immediately turn over the list of bonus recipients we have subpoenaed. The deadline for responding to our subpoena is tomorrow. More litigation is not the answer - it is time for AIG to come clean."
In political circles, Judge Fried's ruling means the imminent end of speculation as to whether -- and to what extent -- one of the bonus recipients was former Memphis congressman Harold Ford Jr., who became a Merrill Lynch vice chairman in 2007 and continues to work for Bank of America, which acquired the troubled brokerage late last year.
As his statement Wednesday indicates, Cuomo has condemned the bonuses, totaling some $3.6 billion, contending that the timing of their issuing, earlier than customary, meant that American taxpayers were, in effect, picking up the tab for them via several massive federal bailouts subsequently paid to Merrill Lynch/Bank of America.
"In a meeting late Tuesday, Warren Funk, consulting with human resources, rejected talk of temporary wage cuts to save jobs. Then he informed us that management now plans to increase the number of job cuts in editorial to 19, up from a previously announced 18, and the number in circulation/customer service to seven, up from a previously announced four."
The Flyer has received several tips claiming that some well-known editorial employees have been axed. Out of respect for their privacy, we will not publish the names until we have fully sourced confirmation.
The letter continues: "We are deeply disappointed that management decided to make already destructive cuts even worse and we reserve the right to file a grievances or unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board.
"Workers will be paid through March 27 regardless of whether they stay on the job or not. We have urged management to let workers continue to have access to the building through this period to wrap up projects and gather materials they need to apply for other jobs, and we hope they will honor this - it's unclear that they will."
In other news, the single-copy price of The Commercial Appeal rose from 50 cents to 75 cents this week.
More as this story develops.
The building, also known as the Rhodes Jennings Building, is part of Court Square Center and also includes the Lincoln American Tower and a new building called CA2, where the old Court Square Annex Building burned in 2006, sparked by embers from a fire that began at First United Methodist Church.
Built in 1886, the Lowenstein building has been vacant for almost 30 years and was nearly demolished at one point. It was saved by the efforts of Court Square Partners Willie Chandler, Yorke Lawson, and John Basek along with Memphis Heritage. The cost of the renovation was $20 million.
Court Square Center will have apartments on the upper floors and commercial on the ground floor, which opens to the Main Street Mall and trolley line. Coupled with a new Marriott Hotel under construction on the mall next to Regions Morgan Keegan Tower and the future University of Memphis Law School in the old Customs House on Front Street, it signals a brighter future for the center of downtown.
Representatives from Amaze Design in Boston and Howard+Revis Design in Washington D.C. will be at the museum sharing their proposals for the project's concept design phase.
"For this concept design phase, we've asked both companies to focus on two things -- the courtyard, to help us create a more cohesive campus, and the introductory exhibits, to give us ideas on how they would set the stage for our visitors' experience," said Tracy Lauritzen Wright, the museum's director of administration and special projects.
The firms' plans will be viewable at the museum's website after tonight's meeting. A public comment period through April 5th will follow. Once a final design team is selected, that group will also look at re-working some of the museum's permanent exhibits.
"There are some very iconic elements in our exhibit experience as it is now, like the [Martin Luther King] room and the Montgomery bus exhibit," said Lauritzen Wright. "We know those are linked with our identity as a museum. Those won't change, but we may change some of the elements around them."
-- Bianca Phillips
There was a lot of talk but no action, but there are financial pressures that may open up the taps for the dwindling number of UM football fans at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.
Cindy Buchanan, director of the Division of Parks and Recreation, told council members that the university is somehow going to have to make up a financial shortfall that has been made more acute by crowds as small as 7,000 fans. The operating cost per game at the stadium is $45,000-$50,000, she said, and UM pays about $35,000 in rent.
"They need to be able to pay for the cost of their games," she said.
The city estimates that beer sales would bring in another $150,000 a year, while stadium management firm SMG pegs the increase at $250,000 or more.
Council members Shea Flinn and Bill Morrison voiced support for suds, while councilman Bill Boyd opposed the idea. Boyd said he has been attending college football games since 1954 and believes that beer sales make for a rowdier and less family-friendly crowd.
Beer is currently sold at the AutoZone Liberty Bowl game and the Southern Heritage Classic. Buchanan said some Conference USA teams, including Tulane, also sell beer at football games.
She added that the shortfall was lower in previous years, when Memphis was winning more games and drawing bigger crowds and generating more concession-stand revenue. The university reports attendance based on tickets sold and comes up with an "average attendance" of 25,003, but actual attendance is sometimes 7,000 to 9,000, while operating costs stay the same.
On another subject, Buchanan said the city is ready to move ahead with the construction of 70 companion seats for wheelchair seats in the stadium. The cost would be $200,000, because there is room behind the existing wheelchair seating on Row 25.
By strict Americans With Disabilities Act standards, a wheelchair seat must include a companion seat. Therefore the Liberty Bowl, Buchanan said, currently has no seats that comply with ADA standards. The new seats should be ready by fall, and, if past trends hold, should be more than adequate to meet demand. University officials have said that the most wheelchair seats used at a game since 2006 was 50, and the average, excluding games involving Southeastern Conference teams, was more like eight.
Judges on tonight's program gave the Memphis singers mixed reviews. The theme was "Nashville," and the country tunes were apparently not exactly Grace's and Rounds' forte. The group of 11 finalists will be narrowed to 10 or so (depending on the judges) Wednesday night.
Read the News story here. (We'd advise that you "consider the source" before taking this report too seriously.)
First Horizon, parent of First Tennessee, is the last remaining Memphis-based regional bank and has approximately 6,200 employees. Its stock price has fallen from over $40 to below $10 in two years. It has cut 30 percent of its employees, sold 34 branches, got out of national lending, and reduced its assets by $6 billion.
According to the proxy statement, CEO Bryan Jordan earned $1,442,327 in total compensation in 2008. Charles Burkett, president of banking, earned $1,489,229. F. J. Gusmus, president of FTN Financial, earned $1,529,584, and former CEO Gerald Baker got $2,063,766.
If there is a change of control of First Horizon, Jordan gets $2,254,169, Burkett $4,119,305, and Gusmus $4,426,776.
First Horizon had $1.66 billion revenue in 2008. Birmingham-based Regions Financial had $6.6 billion in revenue, while Atlanta-based SunTrust had $8.3 billion in revenue. All three regional banks received funds in the federal bailout, with First Horizon getting the lowest amount -- $866 million.
As previously reported, Regions CEO C. Dowd Ritter earned $9,261,865 in 2008. SunTrust CEO James Wells III earned $5,450,214.
First Horizon's annual shareholder meeting is scheduled for April 21st in Memphis.
Stanford and his wife filed for divorce in 2007; the matter is still unresolved.
Meanwhile, the good sister -- who has been known to provide "good Christian panties" to naughty young ladies who've been seduced by the liberal thong -- is struggling to come to grips with confusing modern technology, like podcasts, mobile phones, and tweets.
Of course there's really no point in any further explanation when, thanks to the miracle and/or curse of youtube, we can all spend some private time with Sister, aka Memphis actor/writer Steve Swift.
Sister Myotis' Church Retreat, a Voices of the South production, runs March 20-29. For additional information, call 726-0800.
You want your kid to grow up to be the next Lil Rounds? Well, Opera Memphis can't help you there. But they can teach your offspring to sing opera. During the Summer Opera Conservatory, students learn the process of opera from audition to production. The program is open to students ages 8 to 20, but they must first pass an audition tonight from 6 to 8 p.m. or Saturday afternoon from 1 to 4 p.m. Auditions are held at the Clark Memphis Opera Center.
If you've lost your job due to the recession, theres still hope for finding a new path. The Cordova Branch Library is offering a free two-part "Spring Out of Recession" program on Saturday. Round one begins at 1:30 p.m. and gives participants hints on how to find another job. The second half begins at 3:30 p.m. and offers job-interviewing tips.
Ladies, ditch your male partners this weekend for a girls day out at the Southern Women's Show. The annual expo features sales of womens clothing and gifts, makeover demonstrations, cooking tips, and more. The expo runs through Sunday at the Agricenter.
For more weekend fun, check out the Flyer's searchable online calendar.