MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) – “Memphis will never get in the Big East Conference.” That’s what the naysayers said about the Tigers’ chances of landing in that prestigious BCS conference.
But now, it’s a done deal. Memphis starts competing in the Big East in all sports in the 2013-2014 season.
The numbers on both sides of the equation concerning the move are big- really big. But for Tiger fans, the game is still the thing and moving to the Big East is exciting.
“It was the entire buzz on campus,” said U of M freshman Quay Roberts, “we’ve talked about it at lunch, at breakfast, in class; it’s really a big deal.”
Fans are excited. After all the hand wringing, the University of Memphis football Tigers will now compete in a BCS conference; the basketball team moves into a league rich in hoops tradition.
“We have worked long and hard to get into a BCS conference and become a member of the Big East,” said U of M Athletic Director R.C. Johnson. “By golly, we did it. We did it.”
They did, but it did not come cheap.
“It cost us $2.5 million to go into the Big East,” Johnson said.
Leaving Conference USA had its own price tag.
“The exit fee for us is $500,000,” Johnson added.
So, instead of teams like Marshall, FedExForum will now receive regular visits from the likes of Connecticut and Villanova.
But, does Memphis stack up in athletic spending with the rest of the schools in the Big East?
“South Florida is already in the Big East,” said Jason Bolton, “and they spent $43.4 million on athletics for the 2010-2011 season. The University of Memphis spent $41.7 million.”
Bolton is the Director of Research for the Memphis Business Review, and authored a detailed article on the top 340 Division One schools and their athletic spending totals.
According to Bolton’s research, the U of M ranked 69th in the nation in total athletic spending.
“The issue is not so much money as morale,” Roberts told abc24.com. “Now that we’re going to the Big East, we’ll have a lot more interest in our team.”
Back to the money; while it may have cost a lot to leave Conference USA, there is much more to be gained.
“This year we are going to get about two million dollars from Conference USA,” said Johnson. “The Big East schools this year are going to get about $8.6 million.”
Not only that, future projections range upwards of ten million dollars annually per school.
“It’s a great time to be a Tiger!” exclaimed Johnson.