The media was expecting the Big 12 to end the expansion conversation for a least a couple years today in a press conference. However, they pulled a major surprise and announced that they asked commissioner Bob Bowlsby to “explore expansion candidates”. Sports Illustrated said that it will definitely be two new teams but could be as many as four teams. Another thought that came up, most notably by USA Today’s Dan Wolken, is to add Memphis and Cincinnati in all sports and BYU and Boise State in football only. While Cincinnati will 99% get into the Big 12 if they were to expand, I’ll be focusing in on why Memphis will be the second team to get in. If you have read my blog previously, you could tell that I am pro Memphis.
The University of Memphis lately has been in a mid to low major conference, with universities that include East Carolina, Tulsa, Tulane, Marshall and South Florida. They were accepted into the Big East when it was still big, before all the teams switched over to the ACC, which at that point was a big deal. However, it fell through sending them along with Cincinnati and Connecticut to the newly formed American Athletic Conference where those teams are still today. IF the Big 12 were to expand there are three reasons why Memphis will get in facilities, fans, and sponsorships.
Basketball and Football are the two main selling points when it comes to accepting new universities into a higher level conference. Let’s start with basketball… the Memphis Tigers men’s basketball team are one of only five teams that play in a NBA arena (St. Johns, Villanova, Memphis, Marquette, Georgetown) and one of three teams that play all of their home games in a NBA arena (Memphis, Marquette, Georgetown). The FedExForum holds over 18,000 fans even though they don’t sell out many of their games they bring in over eight thousand fans every game which is one of the best in the country and is more than over 70% of NCAA Division I basketball arenas hold. The other venue is the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, holding over 59 thousand fans (that could expand to over 61 thousand) makes it the third largest stadium in Tennessee (behind Nissan Stadium and Neyland Stadium) and the largest non-professional team stadium in the AAC (Temple and USF play in NFL stadiums). The Liberty Bowl has held the annual Liberty Bowl game every season since 1965 and has also homed the USFL’s Memphis Showboats and NFL’s Tennessee Oilers for one season. Other arenas that the Tigers use include the newly redone baseball stadium, FedExPark,Mike Rose Soccer Complex, and Elma Roane Field House. The University of Memphis is also building a new multi-million dollar football facility with an indoor field, training center, weight room, along with other rooms for upcoming football seasons.
People don’t see Memphis unless they live in the area and even though the streets are tough and the people may not get along they all have one common topic, sports. Rather it is the Tigers, Grizzlies or even the Redbirds people sue do love their Memphis sports. They come together over all sports especially basketball. When the basketball team is good the city is buzzing, people flock to the forum to see their games and now that the football team is starting to get good the city has turned their attention to football and new head coach Mike Norvell. Season tickets are at an all time high, in how many the university is selling and the price of a ticket. There are Memphis Tiger bumper stickers and licence plates on cars, flags flying proudly in yards and BBQ grillin’ on Tiger Lane. It is a great spectacle to see when the Tigers are good.