Filling Forum president's goal
Harold Byrd aims to fill the upper level of FedExForum for Tiger basketball games. The newly elected president of the Rebounders club says one way is to encourage businesses to buy the tickets and donate them to deserving youth.
Election of Byrd figures to invigorate Rebounders
By Dan Wolken
May 13, 2007
For years, the University of Memphis Rebounders club has not been a place for the mega-boosters, but rather those whose enthusiasm for the program is far greater than their financial clout.
This week, however, the Rebounders significantly expanded their reach by electing Harold Byrd -- Bank of Bartlett president and key UofM donor -- as the group's new president, succeeding Win Rainey.
While that may seem like an odd fit on the surface, there was a clear purpose behind it. Ever since last season ended, coach John Calipari has been preaching about the opportunity to amp up every aspect of the program, fueled by the momentum of back-to-back Elite Eight appearances.
With Byrd's influence and contacts in the local business community, the opportunity is there to take the Rebounders to another level while still relying on its core constituency.
"Naturally I'm involved in a lot of other things, but I feel like the great amount of goodwill and the national acclaim that the basketball team has brought to the city and the university is just enormous," Byrd said.
"These kids have represented the university so well, and what John wants the Rebounders to become is to build on what Win and that group have done but also to have the FedExForum sold out for every game, to have the Rebounders help lead that charge to do that as well as bring new people into the program."
While the Rebounders will still organize road trips and hold receptions at home games, the group will also be part of the effort to fill the upper deck of FedExForum in 2007-08, which is still a point of concern for Calipari and athletic director R.C. Johnson despite the Tigers' loaded home schedule and possible preseason No. 1 ranking.
One idea, Byrd said, is to encourage businesses to buy those tickets and donate them to local charities that serve economically challenged youth.
"We take it for granted when we go to the FedExForum and watch a Jeremy Hunt or CDR (Chris Douglas-Roberts) play," Byrd said. "The younger kids have been turned on by what the program has done, and this is a way to do a lot of things, to get the younger generation involved in the University of Memphis program and inspire them to academic success."
For the first time since Conference USA realigned two years ago, there won't be any major pieces of legislation regarding men's basketball on the agenda for the league's annual meetings, which begin Monday in Destin, Fla.
Chris Woolard, the C-USA assistant commissioner who oversees men's basketball, said most of the heavy lifting was done the last two summers on key issues like a 16-game conference schedule, the conference tournament format and non-conference scheduling guidelines.
The focus this year will be on how to get the league's second tier of teams -- UAB, Houston, Southern Miss and Tulsa primarily -- into the discussion for postseason bids in 2008. Last year, the league was shut out of the NCAA Tournament and NIT aside from Memphis.
"It will be more of a reflection of where we are," Woolard said. "We'll look at the policies we have in place, figure out where we are and then see if we need to tweak anything as we move forward. ... Any (topic) can be raised and discussed, but I don't think you'll see any legislation put in place unless there's enough people adamant about it."
One issue that will be debated is whether to move the 2009 or 2010 C-USA Tournament out of Memphis. The 2008 event has already been confirmed at FedExForum, but there is clearly a movement among the league's coaches to try another site (at least for a year) because of the advantage Memphis has had playing at home.
Groups from practically every major city in the league have made it know they'd like to host a league tournament. But are there any truly viable options? Even the two cities that make some sense -- Tulsa and Birmingham -- can't guarantee the kind of revenue the league generates in Memphis.
Over the past two years, former Tigers star Penny Hardaway has been training for an NBA comeback with Miami-based Ed Downs. Now, Hardaway is helping promote Downs' patented "CoreTwist" training system.
Downs is selling his patented, air-filled discs and a set of DVDs that explain his workout program. Hardaway said training on the discs, which promote core strength, has helped him finally overcome the knee injuries that have limited him to just four NBA games over the past two seasons.
Several other pro athletes use Downs' system, including Baron Davis, Alonzo Mourning and NFL receiver Jerry Porter.
"I designed it for everybody to use," Downs said. "I was using it with NBA and NFL players and getting great results. I'm like, you know what? It only takes 15, 20 minutes to do a workout. That's why I said, it's time to bring it out to the public."
For more information, visit coretwist.com.
Calipari has a history of recruiting Puerto Rican players, both at UMass and Memphis. Could two more be on his radar for 2008?
Memphis has at least some interest in two highly rated Puerto Ricans, 6-9 forward Victor Davila and 6-10 forward Angel Garcia, both of whom played in U.S. high schools last year.
Garcia appears to be more of a target after his performance at the Pittsburgh Jam Fest in April, which inspired Rivals.com to move him up from 89th to 33rd in its 2008 rankings. A skilled big man who moved to East Chicago, Ind., last year, Indiana appears to be the team to beat for Garcia.
Meanwhile, the stock of three more players being recruited by Memphis apparently went up during the April evaluation period. Chicago guard DeAndre Liggins was promoted to the No. 18 prospect overall (from No. 90), St. George's guard Elliot Williams moved up to No. 20 (from No. 28), and 6-10 forward Kenny Kadji of Florida is No. 21 (from No. 40).
A new name on the recruiting list is Tulsa-area star Rotnei Clarke, a pure shooter who averaged 37.6 points last year and is ranked 80th by Rivals. According to the Tulsa World, Memphis has joined Gonzaga, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Tulsa, Oral Roberts and others in his recruitment.
To reach reporter Dan Wolken, call 529-2365