Let the Sun Shine In 

Who said there was nothing new under the sun? Depending on your religiosity, the answer is either the Almighty Himself or the vaguely cynical old churchman who authored the Biblical text known as "Ecclesiastes."

In any case, now that we've reached a point on the calendar where the sun is more or less reliably shining, let us submit the idea to the proof test.

What's new? Between the previous warm season and the one we're now enjoying, the University of Memphis has acquired new coaches for its two major sports programs — football and basketball. One of the newbies is Tubby Smith, who won an NCAA basketball championship at Louisville some years ago and who, as recently as last season, was named "Coach of the Year" for his work at Texas Tech. Considering that, only weeks before Smith was snagged, UM's basketball program seemed incurably bogged down, with two straight seasons without a post-season tournament for the Tigers and a contract with then Coach Josh Pastner that had come to seem over-endowed (to many disappointed boosters, anyhow), Smith's acquisition does indeed seem to make the sun shine brighter.

And, on the football side, there's new coach Mike Norvell, the former offensive coordinator at Arizona State, who comes in this year to replace Justin Fuente, who, in his brief tenure, had returned the University's football program to a measure of the sunshine it had seemed to lose in the several previous years and had won a) 19 games in a two-year span, b) a conference championship, and c) a major bowl game. Can Norvell do as well? By the reckoning of several people equipped to judge such things, Norvell's first recruiting class may be the most promising in the nation, and, in a self-introduction of sorts to the Rotary Club of Memphis on Tuesday, the 34-year-old Norvell, the self-described "youngest head coach in college football," certainly seemed convincing as he talked up his team as a family and promised to lead his young charges to the "next step" on their lives and to "excellence on the field, in the classroom, and in the community."

A tall order, maybe, but even in making his case, Norvell lit up the room. It is easy to imagine him doing the same on the practice field.

And sometimes old wine comes in new bottles and seems the riper and better for it. At the very time that political figures in Tennessee and various presidential candidates in the nation at large have been urging a revision of our criminal justice system, here comes what we judge to be a bright new idea from former Memphis schools superintendent, former Memphis mayor, former charter-school entrepreneur Willie Herenton, who two weeks ago proposed an innovative scheme to house youthful offenders in pleasant, rehab-focused local surroundings, near their homes and loved ones, rather than in far-off, menacing penal institutions that double as crime schools.

Worth a try, we say, and, best yet, Herenton, who hopes for official state support, isn't asking local taxpayers to foot the bill.

Let the sun shine in: That's not exactly a new idea, but it's still a good one.

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