Memphis continues lobbying for Big 12 inclusion - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis continues lobbying for Big 12 inclusion

(Source: WMC Action News 5) (Source: WMC Action News 5)

The Big 12 could be expanding, and the University of Memphis wants in.

The Big 12 recently commissioned a study on expansion that came back favorable. The Power 5 conference currently has just 10 teams and lacks a championship game in football.

The Tigers have been lobbying the Big 12 for inclusion for more than a year, talking to Big 12 officials like Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, and sending direct e-mails to the league’s individual schools.

One email from U of M President David Rudd to University of Texas President Gregory Fenves in December 2015 touts the great strides the Tigers have made in their athletic department and invites Texas to view a presentation called “The Soul of the City.”

Dr. Rudd is bombarding social media with messages about the university and the city, touting its steep history in music, diverse culture, and the presence of several fortune 500 companies like FedEx.

FedEx CEO Fred Smith is on board with the lobbying efforts, along with other business leaders and city politicians.

Rudd was brought to Memphis from the University of Utah, which jumped from the Mountain West to the Pac-12 with Rudd’s help.

Everything the U of M has done lately, from giving coaches big contracts to expanding practice facilities and Liberty Bowl upgrades, have all been done with the intent of getting Memphis into the Big 12.

While it’s not a guarantee the league will expand, Memphis does have plenty of competition if the conference does choose to add teams.

Cincinnati is seen as a frontrunner for Big 12 inclusion. The current American Athletic Conference rival is seen as a perfect travel partner for West Virginia, the Big 12’s eastern-most school.

As a former Big East member, Cincy has improved its athletic department to Power 5 levels and the Bearcats have even played in an Orange Bowl.

The University of Houston represents another candidate, with a strong football program, a huge TV market, and in-state rivals with Baylor, Texas, and Texas Tech.

UCF represents a candidate that could give the Big 12 a presence in Florida, and UConn, Boise State and BYU also represent possible options.

A Memphis addition would give the Big 12 a footprint in SEC territory, plus strong support from FedEx and other local industries.

The Big 12’s Board of Governors will meet on expansion later this spring.

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