SBD/February 8, 2012/Colleges

Memphis Accepts Offer To Join Big East Conference In All Sports In '13

Memphis will join Big East with three other C-USA members for '13-14 school year
The Univ. of Memphis "has accepted an offer to join the Big East Conference in all sports" in '13, according to sources cited by Brett McMurphy of CBSSPORTS.com. UM, which will hold a press conference today to announce the move, will join the Big East with three other Conference USA members -- Houston, SMU and UCF -- for the '13-14 school year. UM's men's basketball team "would help offset the future losses of men's basketball powers Syracuse, West Virginia and Pittsburgh" (CBSSPORTS.com, 2/7). In Memphis, Kyle Veazey notes the school has "long coveted a spot in the Big East." A C-USA spokesperson said that UM "would have to pay $6.6 million to leave the league." That is a "$500,000 flat exit fee and $6.1 million in a per-school share of television rights revenue." UM has been a member of C-USA since the league's inception in '96. Seven of the conference's 12 inaugural members "will belong to the Big East" by '13 (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 2/8). In N.Y., Lenn Robbins notes Temple, which "has a rich basketball tradition and has built a respectable football program, seemed a much better choice to the league," but sources said that Villanova "was adamant about not letting another Philadelphia-based school into the Big East." A source also said that the "expansion door is not closed." Meanwhile, the Big East will grow to 12 football teams when Navy joins the conference as a football-only member in '15. A source said that 12 teams will allow the league to play a championship game, "possibly at Yankee Stadium." It also "will allow the league to split into East and West divisions" (N.Y. POST, 2/8).

BIG DAY FOR MEMPHIS
: In Memphis, Geoff Calkins writes the city "has seen some historic sports moments over the past couple decades," and today's announcement "has that sort of significance." Calkins: "Who really cares if Air Force and BYU had to turn down the invitation for the Tigers to get their shot? The important thing is, both did." The "gap between the haves and the have-nots is growing wider in college sports," and UM "just joined up with the haves." Outgoing UM AD R.C. Johnson "deserves some credit." This was "always going to be a pass-fail test," and Johnson "passed emphatically." Calkins: "His legacy will be different" (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 2/8). WREG-CBS' Glenn Carver said for the school, a "move to a major conference like the Big East makes them feel legitimate." WHBQ-AM’s George Lapides said, “Every home basketball game will be bigger than any home basketball game, for example, played at FedEx Forum this year. This is going to make football much more exciting. It’s probably the biggest thing that’s ever happened to the university” (WREG.com, 2/7). U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) said, “It puts Memphis on the map in major-league sports. ... There’s money in the Big East” (WMCTV.com, 2/7).

GOOD FROM A RIVALRY STANDPOINT: ESPN’s Bob Valvano called Memphis joining the Big East a "great move." Louisville coach Rick Pitino lobbied to get UM in the conference, and Valvano said for Louisville fans, outside of Kentucky the "second biggest rivalry in those people’s minds probably was the Louisville-Memphis rivalry." Valvano: "They’re going to come into the Big East with a built-in rivalry, with a feverish fan base, convenient travel. ... It’s a slam dunk for the Big East.” Comcast SportsNet Chicago’s David Kaplan said, “Memphis had not gotten the respect because people think, ‘Oh they’re blowing through Conference USA.’ This will legitimize their program and help with recruiting big time” (“The Experts,” ESPNU, 2/7).

PROJECTED BIG EAST FOOTBALL SCHOOLS FOR '12
Cincinnati
Connecticut
Louisville
Pittsburgh*
Rutgers
South Florida
Syracuse*
West Virginia**
PROJECTED BIG EAST FOOTBALL ADDITIONS FOR '13
Boise State
UCF
Houston
Memphis
San Diego State
SMU
PROJECTED BIG EAST FOOTBALL ADDITIONS FOR '15
Navy
CHART NOTES: Schools that are full members in the Big East in all sports except football include DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Notre Dame, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall and Villanova. * = Pittsburgh and Syracuse are projected to leave the Big East for the ACC for the '14 season. ** = West Virginia is leaving the Big East for the Big 12. The exact year of departure has yet to be determined.
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