NEW YORK — Memphis athletic director R.C. Johnson was happily enjoying the food and festivities at the Conference USA Men’s Basketball Media Day in downtown Manhattan Tuesday, but that didn’t stop him from imagining life in a BCS conference.
“I don’t want to lie to you,” Johnson said. “In the ideal world, the SEC would call and we’d go tomorrow.
“But in the meantime we’re going to do everything we can to make this thing [Conference USA] get stronger and stronger.”
While Johnson has long maintained that the SEC would be his first choice, Memphis is often linked to the Big East.
Yet the Big East has recently reached out to Texas Christian and Villanova about becoming the league’s ninth football team, thereby balancing the league schedule.
“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 last year. “So that’s one of the things that we would hope would be in our favor.”
Memphis has been a member of Conference USA since the mid-1990s.
Joining a BCS conference enables greater payouts from TV and bowl games, as well as enhanced recruiting opportunities.
“Money, money, money,” Johnson said when asked his main reasons for wanting to join the BCS.
Last year, Johnson hired former Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese as an adviser “just to evaluate our program.”
“I wanted him to come in and just evaluate our program,” said Johnson, who knew Tranghese from Johnson’s days at Temple. “It got misconstrued that he was coming in just to get us into the BCS, and that really wasn’t it. It was for him to evaluate.”
On the basketball front, Johnson has noticed that former Memphis coach John Calipari has made news by recruiting players to Kentucky like Eric Bledsoe and Enes Kanter, both of whom have been investigated by the NCAA.
“In the Bledsoe case, it got such big play and as it turned out, there was nothing to it,” Johnson said. “I never have a problem with that.
“What I do have a problem with — and John never did it and Josh [Pastner] isn’t doing it — blatant, flagrant violations. We just don’t tolerate that.”
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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.