Recent Posts
About ZagsBlog
Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Follow Zags on Twitter
Contact Zags
Connect with Zags:
Thursday / February 22.
  • Memphis AD Says SEC is First Choice

    Share Zagsblog Share Zagsblog

    Memphis athletic director R.C. Johnson says the school’s first priority would be to join the Southeastern Conference — not the Big East.

    “Quite honestly, the truth of the matter is the lifelong dream of Memphis is to get in the SEC,” Johnson said Thursday in a phone interview. “We’re surrounded by SEC country. When Arkansas got in Memphis thought they were going to get in.”

    Johnson hired former Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese on a six-month basis and gave him one overwhelming mandate.

    “I told him, ‘It’s simple. There are six BCS conferences. Get us in one,'” Johnson said.

    Memphis has been a member of Conference USA since the mid-1990s.

    Tranghese, in an interview on Wednesday, said he couldn’t pull such a move off singlehandedly.

    “I can’t get people into conferences. That’s not what I do,” Tranghese said.

    The SEC currently has 12 teams and would need to add teams in order for Memphis to join.

    “They would have to expand and I don’t see that happening,” Johnson said. “We’re right in the middle of the SEC country and we would hope someday that that would happen. That would always be our first choice.  We would just really like to get in a BCS conference.”

    Joining a BCS conference enables greater payouts from TV and bowl games, as well as enhanced recruiting opportunities.

    “Money,” Johnson said. “Money and the image of recruiting. Truthfully, we think our program is better than about half the BCS programs. But not being BCS there’s always that stigma. Even when we were in the Final Four — basketball has nothing to do with BCS –they talked about us being a non-BCS school. And our coaches, they fight that all the time.”

    Because Tranghese was associated with the Big East for three decades and was Commissioner for 19 years until stepping down at the end of June, speculation is running high that Johnson wants Tranghese to get Memphis in the Big East.

    “Because Mike has been there, that’s the natural inclination. That’s not necessarily the case. I was at Temple before I came here and at that time Temple was in the Big East and that’s where I knew Mike. And we’ve been good friends all along. And he’s so highly thought of,” Johnson said. “We had him come here and analyze our situation and help prepare us.”

    Louisville, Cincinnati and South Florida joined the Big East in 2004 and Memphis still has strong regional rivalries with the Cardinals and Bearcats.

    “Our fan base still relates strongly to Cincinnati and Louisville because that was such a huge rivalry,” Johnson said.

    The Big East currently has 16 basketball teams and would likely have to kick somebody out — DePaul didn’t win a single conference game last season — in order for Memphis to join.

    “I think so, to be realistically,” Johnson said of the Big East needing to lose a basketball team.

    As for football, the Big East currently has eight teams, which creates an unbalanced situation where teams play either three or four league home games per season.

    “From the football standpoint, it’s a little awkward on their scheduling because they have seven conference games and ideally you’d like to have a minimum of eight,” Johnson said. “So that’s one of the things that we would hope would be in our favor.”

    Johnson said the Big 10 and Pac-10 could also be options if a spot were to open up.

    “Our hope is that the Big 10 does something down the road, or the Pac-10, so that there’s a domino effect and then maybe can something where we can get in,” Johnson said.

    The Big 10, which actually has 11 teams, could potentially add a 12th team. Rutgers and Notre Dame have both been the subject of numerous rumors.

    “I’ve heard all sorts of rumblings,” Johnson said. “Their first choice would certainly be Notre Dame. But I keep hearing that Notre Dame may not be interested. I hear that they might try to get somebody from the East Coast.”

    If Rutgers were to leave the Big East for the Big 10, that could potentially open up a spot but that doesn’t seem imminent.

    “I’ve talked to some of the Big 10 athletic directors and we’re warmer,” Johnson said. “But I think it’s probably a little bit of a reach. But the truth of the matter is, we’re not too far away. And in this day and age, that doesn’t make a whole lot of difference. Conferences are all over the place.”

    On the Pac-10, Johnson said: “We’d go to the Pac-10 if they’d invite us. It’s that big of  a deal.”

    Johnson believes Tranghese can help get Memphis into any BCS conference, not just the Big East.

    “I think he can get through any door,” Johnson said. “I really believe that. He’s so highly thought of, I think he can do that. And I think everybody would listen to what Mike has to say.”


    **Memphis down to eight players.

    **Memphis hires Mike Tranghese in hopes of joining Big East.

    **Joe Jackson to Memphis.

    (Photo courtesy Memphis Commercial Appeal)

    Follow Adam Zagoria on Twitter.

    Written by

    [email protected]

    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.

    • If it were not for the basketball team, this whole discussion would be ridiculous. Memphis hasn’t even mastered C-USA football yet. Yes, they have a great basketball program and they are a sizable television market, but what else do they offer a conference? Sorry, but wins and losses define a team, not their conference.

    • I always though Vandy was a better fit for the ACC. I’d love to see them leave and have Memphis in the SEC.

    • test

    • Adam,
      First, I have followed your blog for quite sometime now and I have now only decided to register. Kudos for everything you do and I have finally decided to offer my input.

      As for this Memphis situation, Memphis definitely belongs in a BCS conference in my opinion. The SEC definitely makes sense for them geographically, but who are you going to kick out of the SEC to make room? Now, I know there are number of scenarios that could happen, unfortuantely, most of them are very unlikely. A couple of scenarios I wouldn’t mind seeing happen are these.

      1) Just a simple switch a roo. It’s a known fact that the Big 10 has been lying for years and actually have 11 schools. They’ve been holding out for years in hopes of Notre Dame joining their conference, but they make more money somehow by being an independent in football. Go figure! Because of that available slot, I would simply enjoy Iowa State heading to the Big 10 and become the Big 12 the 2nd. That obviously leaves an open spot for Memphis to join the Big 12 North in football and start some new and fresh rivalries with Kansas basketball. I like this idea a lot, but it will never happen. I hope Trangrese is reading this.

      2) The next option is a couple of different situations involving the Big 12. You could still send Iowa State to the Big 10 or you could send Colorado to the Pac 10. Actually, you could do both of those scenarios and make everything work as well. Back in the day it was known that Arkansas was affiliated with the Big 12. You might be saying to yourself while scratching your head “I don’t think Arkansas was associated with that conference”? Well, you are right in that thinking, but Arkansas was associated with Texas, A&M, Tech, and Baylor in the old Southwest Confernce. Having Arkansas come to the Big 12 to renew those old rivalries would be sweet. Obviously, that leaves a spot open in the SEC and Memphis could slide right into Arkansas’ spot.

      On a flip slide to this scenario, I would love for Colorado to head to the Pac 10 (I like this because they are already in a different time zone) and Iowa State head to the Big 10 and we get both Arkansas and Memphis. That would be awesome because we could get two more improved sports programs and number 2 that would leave the SEC scrambling to fill an open spot which I would love to see.

      All in all, this is one big pipe dream for me, but I welcome Memphis with open arms to the Big 12. I say let’s take the initiative and let everyone else scramble. Go Big 12.

    • it is all about one thing money memphis believe it or not has just as much money as anyone in the country. how you ask you got to love fred smith and how he loves his tigers. I do believe the big east lost a sponsor in aeropostle and no one in the country would not love to have fed-ex sponsor and be a big contributor. depaul does not do a thing revenue wise in there compony.God bless the big wigs of fed-ex

    • if it happens football fans dont worry, give memphis 2-3 years , we offered to not only match kentuckys offer but fed ex even offered him stock options and a retirement plan that was HUGE, Tommy West would be gone as he most likely will be after this year and we would drop some big money on a coach. plus it would be great cause we might would keep Coach Pastner more than 2 years, because he is going to be one of the best and C-USA wont keep him long, he would always be question about the league. MEMPHIS-LOUISVILLE and MEMPHIS-CINCY those were always great games both place would love to see these again

    • Memphis should be in the SEC …….end of discussion

    • you are right but it will never happen what is your thoughts about them this year. Angel getting hurt is not good. i recently got too watch him play and was by far the best perimiter shooter since adam morrison it was just crazy

    • Excellent point ……Fed Ex would spend the $$ on football …..if Memphis gets into the BCS … stadium …..the whole enchilada …as for Garcia ….these guys all look like great shooters in practice ….its a real game that shows the true ability .

      • Says the guy counting on an average shooting JUCO transfer to be the only player on his team that can hit the broad-side of a barn.

        • Says the guy who knows Darnell Dodson shoots 43% from the trey in actual competition vs. a freshman who has never played at a level beyond high school. God you’re dumb .

          • 43% in JUCO is about 30% in D1. Ask Tyrone Appleton (58% in the same JUCO division).

          • 43% is 43% Big Stoopid ….besides …Cal doesn’t recruit 3 point shooters who can’t shoot 3 pointers ….. watch and learn this season El Stupido .

    • It sounds like Johnson did not say the Big 10 or Pac 10 were options so much as if they were to shuffle teams that might open up a SEC or Big 12 spot for Memphis. Let’s be honest, the Big 10 will never take Memphis because of academics and the Pac 10 would never take them because of geography.

      I actually wonder if the Big 12 could allow them to join from an academic standpoint (not sure what the Kansas States and Texas Techs are academically). To me it seems like SEC or bust simply because the decision makers in these matters are academics and association is a big part of reputation.

    • big ben i been reading yours and pasta boys comments for a while now and as always you dont what you are talking about. yes it should be the sec but it will be the big east i do not know how it is going to work depaul gone or adding more teams it is happening now and i would not be suprised for it to happen in the next 6 months for the juco transfer he will be a force, and 10 to 20 years ago it use to be about academics but with the economy and the way these colleges are hurting money is what they need

      • Wow, the Big East is going to give up the Chicago media market for the Memphis media market? I’d like some of whatever you’re smoking. For many conference academics still matter. Not saying all the Big East schools are elite academically, but Memphis fits in better in the SEC for many reasons.

    • The reason they hired Mike Tranghese,Is because the BIg Ten is trying to poach a Big East team ,If that happens alot of things change .Now if Missouri were leave the BIg 12 it might open the door Arkansas to go back to the Big 12 ,more geographical friendly .That would open the door to the SEC. If the SEC were to just add a team ,If the SEC were to add to get to 14 teams it would be more than likely be adding 2 ,I think they might go talk to Louisville and West Virginia, both in the South East and already established in a bonified BCS members already up Sec standards .

      • Pitt seems to be the best fit for the Big 10(+1). Good academics, big school, geographically already in the conference.

        West Virginia obviously would be left out and the SEC would be a good fit with Memphis as the 2nd team. I think Louisville is a pretty nice fit where it is and doesn’t bring as much to the SEC as WVU or Memphis.

    • If Arkansas leaves …Memphis would be a natural replacement ….. not to mention adding a top notch basketball program …. a NFL caliber stadium ….. and a 2 million geographical area . Alabama fans will spend millions on Beale street ….ever been to Morgontown?

    • The Big 10 and the Pac 10 may now realize the millions they are sacrificing on not having a championship game . The Big 10 needs 1 more team ….the Pac 10 ….2 more.