Following up on reports yesterday that Memphis would be the newest all-sport member of the Big East, the long-time possibility of the marriage has indeed come to fruition.
The Big East announced in a release today that the Tigers will be a full member of the conference beginning in 2013. A press conference with the two sides is scheduled shortly.
“Over the past decade, the University of Memphis has demonstrated an unwavering commitment of competing at the highest level in college sports,” said Big East commissioner John Marinatto. “The University has positioned itself for long-term success by upgrading facilities and investing wisely in various areas of the athletic department including coaching and administration. We are confident that the addition of this outstanding athletics program located in a top 50 media market and in the heart of the nation’s largest conference footprint will further propel the BIG EAST and the University of Memphis to even greater levels of success in the future.”
“This is a historical day for the University of Memphis,” said UM president Dr. Shirley C. Raines. “On behalf of the faculty, staff, alumni, fans, students and especially, our student-athletes, we are thrilled to accept the invitation from the BIG EAST Conference to become a member in all sports in 2013. We are grateful to President Judy Genshaft and the entire BIG EAST Conference Board for their unanimous vote for the University of Memphis and Tiger athletics.
“We are pleased to be renewing some old rivalries that our fans enjoyed in years past, and we look forward to competing against other formidable opponents from the BIG EAST.”
The move, as the Big East puts it, brings in the 12th football member; the conference did not acknowledge Pitt, Syracuse or West Virginia in the release, all of which are leaving the Big East for the ACC and Big 12, respectively.
As CBS Sports‘ Brett McMurphy reported yesterday, a 2012 departure by WVU could spark an earlier exit by Pitt and Syracuse to the ACC, perhaps in 2013, and just as the Big East adds a slew of all-sport and football-only members. In 2015, Big East football plans to look as such: Boise State, UCF, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Houston, Louisville, Memphis, Navy, Rutgers, San Diego State, SMU and USF. Only then will the conference stage a championship game.
So, yes. The Big East is essentially Conference USA. With some Mountain West and Big East/Independent sprinkled in.
Speaking of which, McMurphy also reports today that C-USA has reached out to former Big East and current MAC member Temple about possible membership. According to the report, “Temple thought it would receive the Big East’s invitation and was stunned the Big East invited Memphis.”
Whether or not the Owls would fly away from their home is uncertain. As we noted last year, C-USA and the Mountain West, both getting their best teams plucked as part of conference realignment, decided to look into a football-only alliance, the results of which have yet to be announced. The benefits, we were told from C-USA commissionerBritton Banowsky and MWC commissionerCraig Thompson, would be stability and exposure.
That sounds a lot like what the Big East is promising with its new membership. Come to think of it, the similarities are striking: conferences desperate for enough inventory to stay afloat in the changing college football landscape.