Can Tiger Football & Basketball Be Successful Simultaneously?

Justin Fuente addressed the media on National Signing Day – as his program officially announced their most recent crop of football recruits. As I watched his comments, an old question resurfaced: Can Tiger Football and Basketball have great success simultaneously? Thoughts on that – and other issues – below.

Here’s the video (courtesy of Memphis TigerNetwork), with thoughts to follow:

  • The guy just sounds and looks like a football coach, doesn’t he? Fuente just doens’t look entirely comfortable with the media – just as any classic football coach isn’t.
  • Recruiting isn’t easy – Fuente mentioned the resources and various levels of the University that have to be involved and coordinated -from the President to the Athletic Director to compliance, academics, travel, marketing and of course football staff.
  • The involvement of so many University personnel re-emphasizes how important it is to have full buy in throughout the the entire University administration if a successful football program is to be built and maintained.
  • Full University buy-in is something that everyone associated with Memphis football admits was lacking in previous decades.
  • Conversely, everyone seems to realize that full buy in and focus is present now, and the results – on the field and off – are apparent.
  • In the context of a disappointing year for Tiger Basketball, it’s fair to point out that the University’s drastic focus on creating success for football has to have – logically speaking – taken away resources and attention from basketball.
  • Ask yourself how many athletic department across the country have highly successful programs in both sports simultaneously. You’ll find the answers to be programs – like Florida, Michigan, UCLA, Texas – with nearly unlimited resources. Memphis is not an athletic department with unlimited resources.
  • In the modern ‘realignment’ era, everyone knows that football drives the bus. Therefore critics of Tiger Basketball should understand that Josh Pastner isn’t playing with the same hand dealt his predecessor.
  • As a very small example, Fuente mentioned that his program’s uniforms helped in recruiting. Note that Fuente’s program received a complete re-brand prior to the 2013 season – which included multiple uniform combinations.
  • The basketball program, on the other hand, hasn’t received a uniform re-brand since Pastner arrived. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with this, but it should be understood that the University’s focus has shifted to football – as it needed to. This has to have had an effect on basketball, whether anyone wants to admit that or not.
  • The uniforms, as I said, are just a small example. Other areas subject to limited resources – travel budgets, staff budgets, recruiting budgets, etc…
  • Fuente mentioned the benefits of the AAC’s TV contract.
  • 2014 was the first year of the new AAC contract. Even though Memphis entered the new conference in 2013, during that campaign the old BIG EAST contract was still operational.
  • Specifically, Fuente mentioned that the AAC contract was, “easy to understand” and he’s right. He can simply tell kids that essentially every conference football game (except for maybe 1 per year) will be on an ESPN channel or CBS Sports Network.
  • It’s clear – as it has always been with Fuente – that he has a plan to keep taking Tiger football to that ‘next level’ – which may not necessarily mean more wins right away. What it does mean is that he’s trying to lay a foundation for long term success. It’s been fun to watch thus far and I’m sure Tiger fans can’t wait until next Fall to see his program try to follow up on 2014’s success.