In a hastily called but heavily attended press conference at the U of M's Athletic Office Building, Tiger athletic director R.C. Johnson announced that Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway has donated $1 million to the athletic department. In appreciation, the university will name its yet-to-be-completed athletics hall of fame in honor of Hardaway.
"As all of you know, this is not the best of times financially for anybody," said athletic director R.C. Johnson before making the announcement. "We have said repeatedly that what we are trying to do as an athletic department is to do things with class, dignity, and style. If anyone personifies that, it's Penny Hardaway."
Hardaway electrified Tiger basketball fans during the first two years the team played at The Pyramid. After leading Memphis to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament in 1992, Hardaway was an All-America in 1993 and, that same year, was the third selection in the NBA draft. As a member of the Orlando Magic, Hardaway was an All-NBA selection and reached the 1995 NBA Finals. He was also a member of the gold-medal-winning U.S. basketball team at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.
"Today is a great day," said Hardaway. "Growing up 10 minutes from here, having a dream of playing in the NBA, going to college here, playing with so many great teammates ... to be able to live out that dream, and now come back and give something to the school, it's another dream come true for me. As a little kid, a lot of people told me I couldn't do things. But I set my dreams high, and I accomplished a lot of things people told me I couldn't. I'm so thankful to be able to give back to the school and this program."
-- Frank Murtaugh