According to CBS Sports college football writer Brett McMurphy, who has been at the forefront of all the breaking news associated with the Big East and its efforts to expand to 12 football teams, Memphis will officially accept an invitation to join the Big East in 2013 as a full member. An official announcement is set for Wednesday. McMurphy writes:
Memphis has accepted an offer to join the Big East Conference in all sports in 2013, college football industry sources told CBSSports.com.
The Tigers will join the Big East with three other Conference USA members – Houston, SMU and UCF – for the 2013-14 school year, with an official annoucement coming Wednesday. The Big East also will add Boise State and San Diego State as football-only members in 2013 and Navy in 2015.
It remains unclear what the Big East will do for the intervening years (2013, 2014) when there aren't enough teams to host a conference championship game or split into divisional play (we're assuming that Pittsburgh and Syracuse will negotiate an exit after the 2012-2013 season). It also remains to be seen if Memphis will be placed into the East or West Divisions once all of the teams are officially in the Big East.
Memphis is unquestionably an awful football program right now, but no one should look at this move as a move meant to bolster the football part of the conference. Memphis plays football, but its addition is more aimed at strengthening the basketball side of the conference that will soon be losing Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and West Virginia. Adding Memphis, a fringe top 25 program right now that plays in an outstanding arena and has had quite a bit of success recently will help. The Big East won't be the same, but having Louisville, Memphis, Georgetown, Marquette, Villanova, Connecticut, and an improving St. John's would still make the conference a very strong basketball league.
Memphis also fits the conference's profile as a city. The Big East has always sought out schools in large urban cities and has had success in doing so. San Diego, Dallas, Houston, Orlando and now Memphis all fit in the mold that also brought in Tampa, Cincinnati, and Louisville in its last round of expansion. We will have to wait and see how valuable Memphis is in terms of the new television contract that will be negotiated after the 2013 season. It is at least a benefit to Memphis to have historical rivalries with Louisville and Cincinnati and Conference USA relationships with future members Houston, SMU, and UCF.
Welcome to our mess, Memphis. Makes yourselves at home.
Stay tuned to Big East Coast Bias and our Big East Expansion section for more news on the subject.