John Calipari's strange Memphis settlement

October, 7, 2011
10/07/11
11:10
AM ET
Here's your wacky story of the day, from Kyle Veazey at the Memphis Commercial-Appeal.

It goes a little something like this: When Memphis was forced to vacate its 2007-08 season, and former coach John Calipari left for his current post at Kentucky, a group of three lawyers got together and threatened to sue Calipari, Memphis athletic director R.C. Johnson and former star point guard Derrick Rose, whose academic mishaps cost Memphis its runner-up finish's place in the record books that season. These three lawyers claimed to represent "certain ticket holders" upset that the actions of Calipari, Johnson and Rose had "potentially" made their 2009-10 season tickets worth less than those ticket holders believed when they first made the purchase.

Needless to say, this sounds specious. But these lawyers weren't laughed out of the room, as one might expect. Quite the contrary -- they earned a settlement:
Calipari and Rose, according to the settlement agreement obtained Thursday by The Commercial Appeal, agreed on May 28, 2010, to pay a total of $100,000 to the three attorneys -- Martin Zummach, Frank L. Watson III and William Burns -- who were representing, in the agreement's words, "certain ticket holders." The amount was to be disbursed "as they agree among themselves."

Calipari, who left Memphis after the 2008-09 season for the University of Kentucky, also agreed to donate his bonus to the U of M scholarship fund. The agreement approximated the value of the bonus at $232,000. Rose, who has starred the last three seasons for the NBA's Chicago Bulls, was also to "consider ... making a suitable donation" to the scholarship fund sometime before 2015.

Johnson has also been repaying portions of his bonus to the University of Memphis foundation, but those repayments are included in the language in his contract. No, the interesting bit here is that Calipari (and, at least to some extent, Rose) decided early in the process that a few hundred thousand tops wasn't worth the possibility of a wave of "Fans sue coach, player for vacated season" headlines. They were probably right. From the story:
[U of M attorney Sheri] Lipman said Zummach, a past president of the U of M alumni association, first approached her in the spring of 2010 with a proposed complaint that would attempt to recover the bonus money for the U of M.

"I think he actually used the phrase 'pound of flesh,' " Lipman said.

It's one of the stranger non-lawsuits I've ever heard of, but let's hope it paves the way for other fan bases, alumni associations and booster clubs to take matters into their own hands. The next time a coach leaves your program saddled with NCAA penalties and you saddled with tickets that aren't worth as much as they used to be, sue. Maybe you'll get a settlement. Maybe the coach will have to donate to your school's scholarship fund. Maybe he'll make you an assistant coach. What's the worst that could happen?

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