Memphis reportedly joining the Big East might end up being the best of all moves the conference makes. The Tigers won’t begin play in the Big East until 2013.
As much as the Big East wants to keep its football going, basketball has been the conference’s meal ticket. Bringing Memphis was not only brilliant, but a no-brainer. The Tigers have rich basketball tradition, highlighted by three Final Four appearances and 11 trips to the Sweet 16 dating back to 1973.
Memphis hasn’t had a winning football season since 2007, so we all know that isn’t the reason why the Tennessee school was added. Big East officials are intent on adding a conference championship game. NCAA rules stipulate a conference needs 12 teams to have a championship game. Memphis will help the Big East in that cause.
Conference championship games mean bigger TV deals and more money. The bottom line has become an ultra important issue in college sports these days.
The money notwithstanding, keeping the basketball league strong was the top priority for the Big East. Basketball is what made the Big East what it is today. The strength of its basketball was why the conference was able to absorb the losses of Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech to the ACC. And it is why the conference will be able to survive the loss of Syracuse, West Virginia and Pittsburgh.
It was a welcomed move that many observers expected to happen. It even drew some political praise.
“I am thrilled that my hometown team and alma mater the University of Memphis is being invited to join the Big East,” U.S. Rep Steve Cohen (D-Tenn) said in a statement. “Joining the Big East will not only be great for the University of Memphis, but it will be an economic catalyst for the City of Memphis."