Big East to bring in Memphis in 2013
By John D. Martin
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- According to multiple sources familiar with the process, the Big East presidents voted Tuesday afternoon to approve the University of Memphis' all-sports entry into the conference, beginning in 2013-14.
An official announcement is expected to come Wednesday at a noon CT news conference.
The move ends more than a decade-long courtship between Memphis and the Big East. In 2005, then-Conference USA members Cincinnati, Depaul, South Florida and Marquette were picked over Memphis to join the conference. Memphis athletic director R.C. Johnson was criticized for his lack of proactivity during the realignment process.
With the Big East losing basketball powers Syracuse, West Virginia and Pittsburgh in 2013, the decision to add Memphis likely revolved around sustaining the basketball quality within the conference. After the Tigers lost to Louisville earlier this season, Louisville coach Rick Pitino publicly lobbied for the Big East to add Memphis.
"We got hurt big time, and we need Memphis," Pitino said Dec. 17. "Memphis doesn't need us. We need Memphis. ... We need to build up basketball again."
In the Big East, the Tigers would rejoin former conference foes in Louisville and Cincinnati, longstanding rivalries that were washed away when the two teams fled C-USA. Memphis also becomes the next in line of a conference that features upper-echelon basketball programs like UConn and Georgetown.
But the move could be a saving grace for the football program, which hired TCU co-offensive coordinator Justin Fuente as its head coach on Dec. 8. Although it's uncertain whether the Big East will keep its automatic qualifying status, the scenario is a far more attractive than staying in what would remain of C-USA when Houston, Central Florida and SMU jump to the Big East in 2013, as well.