LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - While red is a color loathed by Kentucky Wildcat fans, Coach John Calipari says he will wear the color for one or more basketball games this season in honor of the late railroad magnate R.J. Corman.
The 58-year-old Nicholasville native lost his battle Friday to multiple myeloma, a type of cancer.
In 2009, Corman -- whose company is known for its signature red -- took his private jet to Memphis to bring newly-named University of Kentucky basketball Coach John Calipari and his family to Kentucky. The two remained friends ever since.
"I always said I would never wear red, but in honor of my friend, I'm going to wear a Rick Corman red jacket to one or more games this season," Calipari said in a blog on his website. "It's the second color I said I would never wear but ended up doing (brown was the other), but I promise I will never wear orange. Oh, and it won't be for the Louisville game either."
Most people probably know Corman from his company's signature red that now cover overpasses in Lexington, his rail yard near Rupp Arena, and his headquarters in Nicholasville that often hosts charity events in one of his two airplane hangers.
After high school, Corman started working in the railroad business with one piece of equipment. Now, the company he founded in 1973 works on derailments from the East Coast to the Rockies and operates in 21 states.
"There are some of us who were born on third base who think we've accomplished something when we run to home plate. When I look at how blessed I am to not only coach basketball but to do it at the University of Kentucky, sometimes I feel that way. I've worked hard to get to where I am, but I've also been fortunate," wrote Calipari. "Rick, on the other hand, started outside the stadium. He was the guy selling hot dogs. He not only got inside the stadium, he rounded the bases, touched home, and ended up owning the stadium and the team. It's amazing where he came from."
Corman was diagnosed with multiple myeloma when he was 45 years old.
"I asked him this question more than once: 'Why don't you just sell your company? You have cancer. You may not have that long. You don't need to be doing all this. Sell your company,'" wrote Calipari. "His comment was always: 'I don't know what someone else would do with my people.' He was offered hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars but he would always turn it down because he was too worried about and too invested in his employees."