Officials hope to lure CUSA tournament back to Memphis

By Nick Kenney - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - While a charter plane sat on the tarmac at Memphis International Airport early Tuesday afternoon, the University of Memphis men's basketball team prepared to play in the Conference USA tournament in an unfamiliar place.

For the first time in half a decade, the conference tournament will be played in a city other than Memphis: Tulsa, Oklahoma.

"I know Tulsa's a great city with great sports fans," Tiger basketball head coach Josh Pastner said as he prepared to leave. "But I don't know what the situation will be in terms of the fan base supporting it. But I do know that Memphis supports it."

After five straight years in the friendly confines of FedExForum, city officials said the loss of tourism as a result of the tournament's move will be felt.

"Obviously it's a big void in our calendar," said Kevin Kane of the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau.

According to Kane, the economic impact is tremendous, and the fight is on to get the tournament back as soon as possible.  Kane said the city has already put together a package aimed at luring the tournament back to Memphis.

"Hopefully it'll be a compelling enough package that they will give us serious consideration to return to Memphis as early as next year," he said.

Kane said he will be in Tulsa lobbying conference officials, while University of Memphis Athletic Director R.C. Johnson lobbies other conference athletic directors.

Meanwhile, this year's team is just happy to play.

"It doesn't matter. If they want to send us to Europe, to New Zealand, or to North Dakota, we've gotta be ready to play," Pastner said.

The Tigers play their first game Thursday, against the winners of a first round game between Houston and East Carolina.

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