Memphis To Join Big East for All Sports
When the Big East invited CUSA members Houston, UCF and SMU, passing over Memphis, the long-time dreams of getting into the conference for the Tigers seemed dead. And if that wasn’t enough, when the school went to west coast an invited San Diego St. and Boise St. to join for football, it looked like the conference was just dancing on the schools grave. By the time Navy announced they were joining for football only, there seemed like little reason to even care anymore.
But that has all changed. Per Brett McMurphy of CBS, Memphis & Big East are in final negotiations for the school to join for all-sports in 2013, with an announcement coming perhaps as soon as this week.
The addition of Memphis is coming hand-in-hand with the most recent news that Louisville is all but set to join the Big 12 as it’s 11th member, further depleting the Big East football membership.
With Pittsburgh and Syracuse leaving, the “football moves” previously made by the Big East apparently still required some offsetting on the basketball side. The departures of the two basketball powerhouses along with West Virginia, will leave the Big East as a less powerful basketball conference. But with the strong basketball addition of Memphis, there remains hope that the damage from the departures will be minimal.
The addition of Memphis will bring the basketball total to 17 schools. It is unknown what the exact plans are for football divisions within the conference as an argument can be made that the strength of the conference is all in the west now, and that a pure divisional setup (which was the initial plan) might be less balanced. But with travel concerns already in mind, balance might not be the key factor.
Membership for 2014, when we know for sure Pitt, Syracuse and WVU will all be gone, will include:
Likely divisional splits could include:
East: Cincinnati, UConn, Louisville, Cincinnati, Rutgers, South Florida, UCF
West: Houston, SMU, Boise State, San Diego State, Navy, Memphis
For basketball, there will be 17 members with Cincinnati, UConn, Louisville, Rutgers, South Florida, UCF, Houston, SMU, Memphis, Notre Dame, Marquette, Georgetown, Seton Hall, St. John’s, Villanova, Providence and DePaul.
There has also been some buzz of late that Villanova would be interested in upgrading to FBS and join the Big East as the 14th member should Air Force join as the 13th. Air Force was one of the initial targets by the Big East but the school initially passed on the idea. But with Navy now set to join the Big East, there might be more of an incentive.
The likely departure of Memphis from CUSA might also increase the chance of the expected CUSA/Mountain West merger. Both conference have seen some of their top media market schools leave recently with UCF (Orlando), Houston, SMU (Dallas) and now Memphis leaving CUSA while national powers Boise St. and TCU leaves the Mountain West as well as the loss of the San Diego market.
A potential merger might not leave too many television dollars for the remaining lineup:
East: ECU, Marshall, UAB, USM, Tulane, Rice, Tulsa, UTEP
West: Colorado St., Air Force, UNLV, New Mexico, Wyoming, Nevada, Fresno St., Hawaii (football only)
The alternatives to a full-merger between CUSA and the Mountain West remain setting up a football-only partnership, which would allow each conference to remain at 8 members for non-football sports (MWC would need to invite Hawaii for all-sports). Both conferences would have a somewhat lackluster pool of candidates if they sought to add members with Utah St., San Jose St., Idaho the likely MWC candidates with UTSA, LA Tech, North Texas, Texas St and other Sun Belt schools as CUSA candidates.
The Mountain West also faces the possibility that Air Force will still leave for the Big East.