Bitter Pill to Swallow on Conference Realignment

Pete Thamel of Campus Rush put out an article this morning on the future of the Big XII. For those hoping that The University of Memphis is going to be part of that future, this article didn’t contain a lot of good news.

I’m not sure it contained any good news, but I’ll do my best to find some.

It’s easy to find stuff on the internet about conference expansion. It’s way more difficult to find legitimately sourced stories about conference expansion.

Thamel’s piece qualifies as the latter. He’s a real reporter.

Thamel spoke to several people around the league and felt strongly enough to say the “near consensus” was that if the conference expanded, it would invite BYU and Cincinnati.

Despite internet rumors to the contrary (BYU is too difficult to work with, Texas politics would force the league to add Houston, Fred Smith wrote a 15 trillion dollar check, etc…), this makes sense. BYU is the most established football brand on the market. Cincinnati is a geographic bridge to West Virginia and has been pouring money into facilities.

As Tommy West famously said, ya gotta have a stick to fight with. Or something like that.

It had to hurt Memphis fans’ egos to see UCF, USF, UConn, Houston and Colorado State all listed ahead of Memphis in terms of perceived attractiveness. Remember, this isn’t necessarily Thamel’s opinion. This is his assessment after talking to people in and around the league.

That’s not a good thing.

Why is Memphis not a more serious candidate? Thamel answers that question in his piece:

Memphis: Memphis had some buzz for a while, as it features a solid television market and recruiting base. Ultimately, though, the football program isn’t developed enough and better academic schools are available.”

Would this be a different story if Justin Fuente had won a few more games this year and not darted to Blacksburg?

Possibly, but probably not.

So at the end of the day it comes down to two things:

  1. Academics.
  2. People apparently don’t trust that the football success at Memphis is more than a 2-year fluke.

Well, that sucks.

I don’t want to get into a discussion about academic rankings and research centers, etc., but it’s hard to imagine the timeline on those things changing will be quick enough to ever assist Memphis’ effort.

Thamel makes it clear the Big XII could be moving sooner rather than later.

So if Memphis was going to overcome a weak academic reputation to garner an invite to a major conference, it was going to have to do so on the strength of football.

Therefore, Memphis’ best hope was to keep investing in football. And to keep winning in football.

This isn’t news, but Thamel’s piece is a reality check to Memphis fans and supporters that maybe thought Memphis has done enough of either.

They haven’t.

Memphis has now had 2 nice seasons in a row but has yet to play in a major bowl game, has delayed ground breaking on an indoor practice facility for 8 decades running, and has a fan base that still qualifies as fickle.

Perhaps those that matter have noticed.

There was some good news, if you’re looking through blue colored glasses.

Thamel’s reporting revealed little support for adding Houston, despite their renewed and renowned investments in football. He also apparently found little interest among those he spoke with for UCF or USF, probably for the same reasons as Memphis (academics, lack of truly established football programs).

So that knocks out 3 supposed competitors.

Still, the academic issues sting the most and those aren’t likely to change any time soon.

And BYU / Cincinnati now seem like the clear front runners.

The bottom line – time may be running out on Memphis’ power conference hopes (again).