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Why Memphis To The Big 12 is (Probably) Never Happening



So, Memphis to the Big 12 has been shut down.


Obviously, this is yet another unfortunate development for Memphis’ conference realignment hopes.

It’s no secret that the university has been trying to find a new home for its athletics. Heck, the school hasn’t even tried to hide it. Memphis has essentially had its arms open for years, practically begging for a power conference to take it in.

But Memphis has continuously been denied time after time. As reports and rumors keep swirling every single year, it gets harder and harder for the average fan to keep faith that something will eventually happen. And honestly, those with that mindset are completely justified for it.

Why the Initial Reports Made Sense

Still, it’s difficult to not get excited when said reports and rumors pop up on your Twitter feed. That’s why Memphians sent themselves into a frenzy when CollegeAD reported that Big 12 officials, including Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark, visited Memphis’ campus.

And even if it was for a brief moment, the possibility felt real. Usually when conference officials visit a campus, it means that something is seriously happening. It means that they’re actually considering taking that school in.

Why Add Memphis?

And it all truly did make sense from Memphis’ perspective. The school has improved its academic standing in recent years. The city is now putting hundreds of millions of dollars into Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium, the home of Tigers Football.

And that’s no longer a myth. That’s actually happening.

FedExForum, the home of Memphis men’s basketball, is also receiving renovations. And Memphis is already a power basketball program despite being stuck in a bad league. Yormark, a former manager of the Barclay’s Center, has shown to care more about basketball than other conference commissioners.

That’s why the Big 12 has flirted with the idea of inviting schools like UConn and Gonzaga. It’s arguably the best basketball league already. And it only wants to further improve upon that.

And I don’t think anybody can deny that adding Memphis would be a plus for Big 12 basketball, especially when the Tigers are currently coached by Penny Hardaway. The former NBA star has shown an uncanny ability to attract major talent to his program. And having stars of that magnitude playing in the Big 12 would draw in more viewers.

Why Not Add Memphis?

But the problem is that basketball is easily the biggest incentive for adding Memphis to the conference. And even though the Big 12 is as high on basketball as it is, it still needs Memphis to add value in football. Despite the stadium renovations, the football program is not operating well under coach Ryan Silverfield.

Since his hiring, the Tigers have gradually gotten worse on the gridiron. So much to the point that Silverfield’s job is in serious jeopardy in 2023 if the Tigers don’t win enough games.

But Memphis athletics is still in a good spot, and is certainly operating at a higher level than the majority of its fellow AAC members. So, the initial report of the Big 12 visiting still made sense.

Why the New Reports Make Even More Sense

Alas, the excitement was again all for nothing.

CBS’ Dennis Dodd first told Gabe Kuhn on 92.9 ESPN in Memphis that the visit didn’t actually happen.

That report was later confirmed by ESPN’s Pete Thamel, who obtained a direct quote from Yormark.

“I’ve never met with anyone at Memphis about adding them to the Big 12, nor have I been on campus,” Yormark said.

Now, could Yormark be straight-up lying? Yes, he theoretically could be.

But let’s be honest with ourselves. He’s almost certainly not.

There have been reports of the Big 12 poaching various schools from the Pac-12. Yormark has not denied those reports.

There were also the aforementioned reports of the conference reaching out to UConn and Gonzaga. As of now, Yormark has not denied those reports either.

If the Big 12 were actually interested in Memphis right now, chances are that Yormark would not have flat-out denied the accusations of the league officials visiting the school.

It’s Time For Memphis to Move On

At this point, Memphis should probably give up on its quest for the Big 12 and focus on other conferences. If the ACC ever wants to expand, Memphis looks to be a good fit there.

With Duke, North Carolina and Louisville being in the league, the ACC is another conference that prioritizes the hardwood. It would also give Memphis the chance to renew its rivalry with Louisville, and likely start new ones as well.

The football team could face Mike Norvell and Florida State on a yearly basis. It’d also get to go up against the school that stole Justin Fuente: Viriginia Tech.

The point is that though joining the Big 12 would be great, it’s obvious that the league will probably never prioritize Memphis in its expansion hopes. And though the ACC may respond to Memphis in a similar manner, Memphis has seemingly never poached the ACC in the same way it has poached the Big 12.

The ACC could also lose both Duke and North Carolina in the coming years, and would subsequently need other basketball powers to try to replace them. And it’s unlikely that many other schools would be willing to jump ship in that case more than Memphis.

Side note: the chances of a Pac-12 school jumping ship to the ACC are almost 0%. The geographical difference would be brutal.

Obviously, if the Big 12 were to call Memphis one day and ask it to join the conference, Memphis should accept that offer in a heartbeat. But the chances of that happening look to be slipping every year.

So, perhaps it’s time for Memphis to end this unrequited infatuation, and finally start looking in other directions.

Senior Editor for Tiger Blueprint. See more of my work on Bluff City Media, where I’m the Memphis basketball beat writer, the Men in Hoodies podcast on Apple and Spotify and on “Sports with Roman Cleary” live on University of Memphis Radio—The ROAR Fridays from 3-4 p.m. during the fall and spring.