MEMPHIS, TENN. --- University of Memphis President Dr. Shirley C. Raines and BIG EAST Commissioner John M. Marinatto announced on Wednesday that Memphis had accepted a formal invitation to join the BIG EAST Conference as an all-sports member beginning in July of 2013.
The BIG EAST Conference Board of Directors, by a unanimous vote of its Presidents, extended the invitation for membership to Memphis.
"This is an historical day for the University of Memphis," said President Dr. Shirley C. Raines. "On behalf of the faculty, staff, alumni, fans, students and especially, our student-athletes, we are thrilled to accept the invitation from the BIG EAST Conference to become a member in all sports in 2013. We are grateful to President Judy Genshaft and the entire BIG EAST Conference Board for their unanimous vote for the University of Memphis and Tiger athletics.
"We are pleased to be renewing some old rivalries that our fans enjoyed in years past, and we look forward to competing against other formidable opponents from the BIG EAST."
The addition of Memphis brings the BIG EAST's football membership to 12 schools. Ultimately, the BIG EAST will have 17 full members. In December, the BIG EAST announced the additions of UCF, the University of Houston and SMU as full members and Boise State University and San Diego State University as football members. In January, the Naval Academy was added as a football member.
The addition of Memphis, along with the five schools announced in December and Navy, will boost the BIG EAST's television reach to more than 31 million homes, which is nearly 28 percent of all U.S. television households. Thirteen conference members will be located among the top 30 television markets and 17 will be in the top 50.
The BIG EAST already had the largest media footprint in college athletics and the addition of Memphis makes that footprint even larger.
"Over the past decade, the University of Memphis has demonstrated an unwavering commitment of competing at the highest level in college sports," said BIG EAST Commissioner John Marinatto. "The University has positioned itself for long-term success by upgrading facilities and investing wisely in various areas of the athletic department including coaching and administration. We are confident that the addition of this outstanding athletics program located in a top 50 media market and in the heart of the nation's largest conference footprint will further propel the BIG EAST and the University of Memphis to even greater levels of success in the future."
"It is with great pleasure that we officially welcome the University of Memphis to the BIG EAST Conference," stated Judy Genshaft, University of South Florida President and Chair of the BIG EAST Board of Directors. "Our Board was very impressed with the University, its ongoing commitment to academic and athletic excellence, as well as its strong community support. We are excited about renewing old relationships, starting new ones and look forward to working together with President Raines and her team in the future."
Memphis will reunite with former conference allies Louisville, Cincinnati, South Florida, DePaul and Marquette, as well as current Conference USA members UCF, Houston and SMU. Memphis and Louisville have enjoyed a long-standing rivalry in all sports but the Tiger/Cardinal match-up in basketball is considered one of the nation's greatest rivalry games and is featured annually in a national TV ad campaign. Memphis, Louisville and Cincinnati were founding members of the Metro Conference in the 1970s and competed in Conference USA in the 1990s.
"This is an exciting day for Tiger athletics," said Memphis Athletics Director R.C. Johnson. "Many years ago we set as a departmental goal the task of being the best that we could be in every athletic endeavor. With today's invitation to join many of our friends in such a prestigious conference means we have achieved one of our top missions.
"We certainly feel that the BIG EAST and its roster of outstanding collegiate athletic programs are a perfect fit for the University of Memphis," Johnson continued. "The BIG EAST has long been known as one of the premier basketball conferences in the nation and the success of the football programs in the conference is well documented."
The University of Memphis competes for a national championship in 19 NCAA sanctioned sports, including 10 men's sports and nine women's sports. Memphis participates in football, basketball, soccer, rifle, golf, tennis, baseball, indoor and outdoor track/field and cross country for men and basketball, volleyball, soccer, golf, tennis, indoor and outdoor track/field and cross country for women. The Tigers have won national championships in golf, rifle and track during the school's 100-year history and has participated in three NCAA Final Fours.
Tiger football, which gained national attention under former head coach Billy J. Murphy in the 1960s, has taken part in five bowl games over the past nine years, including the New Orleans Bowl, the Motor City Bowl and the St. Petersburg Bowl. The University recently made a change in the direction of the football program by hiring former TCU co-offensive coordinator Justin Fuente as the new head football coach.
In the last eight years, Memphis teams have won 17 conference championships in men's basketball, men's soccer, women's soccer, women's golf and men's track and field. The men's basketball program has captured five regular-season conference titles and five tournament championships. The women's soccer program has won five straight league crowns and made five straight NCAA appearances from 2007-11.
Memphis student-athletes have earned significant academic success. The U of M had a school-record 217 student-athletes achieve a 3.0 GPA or better in the 2011 fall semester, including 27 student-athletes who posted a 4.0 GPA. For the second straight semester, Memphis student-athletes, as a whole, tallied a mark of 3.0 or higher. In 2010-11, seven teams achieved their highest semester GPAs during the 2010-11 academic year.
In 2015, the BIG EAST football membership will consist of Boise State, UCF, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Houston, Louisville, Memphis, Navy, Rutgers, San Diego State, SMU and USF.
In 2015, the BIG EAST basketball membership will include UCF, Cincinnati, Connecticut, DePaul, Georgetown, Houston, Louisville, Marquette, Memphis, Notre Dame, Providence, Rutgers, St. John's, Seton Hall, SMU, USF and Villanova.