Reports broke today that Memphis University and the Big East are close to a deal that would bring the Tigers to the conference starting in 2013. Memphis would enter the conference as a full member, meaning that all of their sports would participate in the Big East.
This move makes sense for both sides, especially in the area of basketball. The Big East is still reeling from the losses of Syracuse and West Virginia, but has added SMU, Central Florida, and Houston. Memphis, meanwhile, has been playing in the weak Conference USA, which has not given them the opportunity to play quality opponents and therefore to build a strong at-large resume for the NCAA tournament.
Memphis to the Big East strengthens the conference’s basketball teams. This year, Josh Pastner’s Tigers’ are 16-7 (6-2), just coming off of an impressive win over mid-major power Xavier. In recent memory the Tigers have made numerous trips to the NCAA tournament with now Kentucky Coach John Calipari, including a trip to the 2008 title game against Kansas where they were a free throw or two away from coming away with the victory. Overall, the Memphis has been to 23 NCAA tournaments, posting a 32-23 record. Also, they play in the FedEx Forum, home to the Memphis Grizzlies.
The only potential snag to the deal is how costly it will be for Memphis to leave Conference USA. The Conference has a $500,000 exit fee, not including the loss of television rights money (upwards of $6 million). Rick Pitino has long been speaking out to Big East officials to add Memphis, wanting to enhance Big East basketball after the losses. If this deal ends up getting done, then St. John’s will begin seeing Memphis in 2013.