DePaul, Memphis and the Big East


The big news this week in the incredibly overblown story of Big East expansion is Memphis hiring former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese. Yes, this is huge news. It means that the Tigers now have a pretty easy way into the Big East - or at least that's what everybody seems to think. It was just hours after Tranghese was officially hired that people began speculating about how Memphis would fit into the 16-team basketball and 8-team football conference.

The easy answer - they can't. But that doesn't stop people from trying, and it seems like DePaul is getting a lot of the backlash. (This message board from the Charleston Daily Mail story is just one example.)

Yes, an 0-18 bulls-eye has been placed squarely on the back of the Blue Demons, but is kicking DePaul out of the Big East really the answer? Would it be good for the Blue Demons?
DePaul's place in the Big East comes down to a number of things, but here are some important points to consider before automatically assuming the Blue Demons have to go.

Recruiting - DePaul doesn't seem to be helping the Big East get any more Chicago-area recruits. They all want to go to the University of Illinois still. Players like Jereme Richmond and Meyers Leonard aren't going to Notre Dame or Marquette because of the added opportunity to play in Chicago. In fact, 2010 recruit Crandall Head chose the Illini over both the Golden Eagles and the Fighting Irish. It's worth noting here that Tennessee isn't exactly a hotbed of basketball talent anyways. The ESPNU Top 100 recruits from Tennessee in 2009 are attending... North Carolina and Vanderbilt.

Television Exposure - The Chicago, IL designated market area is the third biggest in the country. Of course, the Big East already controls two of the Top 5 in New York, NY and Philadelphia, PA. It could be argued that with the presence Notre Dame has in the Windy City that, even without DePaul, the league would have a strong impact on the city. I feel like this might be an even bigger deal if the Blue Demons played their home games in Lincoln Park instead of at Allstate Arena in Rosemont.

Football - The Blue Demons don't play football. This is obviously the big sticking point in this whole debate. The Blue Demons haven't had a football team since 1939 and now certainly doesn't seem like the time to start one. But then again, is Memphis really that big of a get in terms of pigskin power? The Tigers are a rousing 4-3 all-time in bowl games and last season lost 41-14 to South Florida in the MagicJack St. Petersburg Bowl. This isn't exactly a football powerhouse. Also, since Memphis lost to Ole Miss, Louisville and USF last season (the only three BCS conference opponents on their schedule) is there really any guarantee that they'd be an upper echelon team in the Big East. No, there really isn't.

Basketball - DePaul has a very strong basketball history, but has struggled recently and college athletics truly are a "What have you done for me lately?", world. Still, Memphis has made a living by beating up on Conference USA opponents, sure the Tigers made the Final Four with Chicagoan Derrick Rose, but that appearance has now been vacated by the NCAA. In fact, Memphis' last two NCAA Tournament Final Four squads - 1985 and 2008 - were eventually vacated by the NCAA. There's a history of mavericks at Memphis. Is that the type of program the Big East wants to encourage?

Rivalry - DePaul has a natural rival in Marquette from their days in Conference USA and their close proximity. DePaul and Notre Dame - given the opportunity - should blossom into an excellent rivalry once the teams stand on equal footing. Two private Catholic schools with two very identities serve for a great foil. Which team is Memphis' natural rival? Louisville? Cardinals fans will always care more about the Kentucky game than any Big East opponent.

Sure, there are reasons why DePaul doesn't seem like a great fit for the Big East right now - a big one seems to be the 0-18 gorilla in the room - but the Blue Demons are a better for the conference right now. Their market, basketball history and rivalries outweigh the small gains Memphis would add in football. Also, while the men's basketball team might not be doing well, the women's basketball team has become a contender in conference and other - non-revenue - sports are thriving.

As @kgallagher so wisely put it when I posed this question on Twitter... "Men's basketball struggling, but all 14 other sports are doing quite well in the BIG EAST. Fix what's broke, don't downgrade."

The Big East should be thinking the same thing.

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  • The teams that Memphis "beats up" in CUSA could whoop DePaul. Having Memphis in the BE would NOT be a downgrade to DePaul, anyone who says that is fooling themselves.

    NOBODY knows that DePaul even has a basketball team these days; the Tigers are recognizable nationally. Who would generate more revenue?

  • I find it interesting that you mentioned the clas of 2009 in recruiting....but stopped short of 2010.
    Gee who was one of the top point guards in the class of 2010....and WHERE are they going to college?
    Oh yeah! Memphis.
    Memphis IS a hotbed of basketball recruiting. Has been for decades. But still, there are years when more highly rated players become available than others. Shame on you.
    Its easy to slam Memphis' football team. They have been bad.
    But they haven't had the facilities, or the money to upgrade those facilities.
    Look at Cincinatti.
    They weren't a world beater in CUSA.
    With inclusion into the Big East, they have better recruiting...and are now in the top 20 in the country.
    Not a reason in the world that could not also be Memphis.

  • Yes, it is true that Joe Jackson - the #5 PG in the class of 2010 - did commit to Memphis. As far as other years... just a quick scan of ESPNU shows 2 players from Tennessee in the 2011 Super 60 and 3 in the Top 100 in 2010.

    Illinois numbers for the same two seasons? 5 (2010) and 6 (2011). Just something worth pointing out. Chicago is also a hot-bed of basketball talent.

    And is Memphis the next Cincinnati, or is it the next USF? It probably comes down to coaching. The Bearcats are a Top 20 program because they have one of the best young football coaches in the country in Brian Kelly.

  • I can agree with that. But isn't a lack of facilities a hindrqnce to a head coach such as Tommy West?
    The fact that he has gone bowling is a darn miracle.
    Ok so easier schedulling helped...but if you don't have the facilities to compete....thats what you have to do to appear to be succesful.

  • Pay attention to Memphis over the next few years. We'll have MANY 5* recruits coming out and at least 5 McD's All Amercians over the next few years.

    And does anyone really give a flip for DePaul and Marquette's rivilary? No.

  • How about the fact that Memphis is located dead in the heart of S.E.C. country and if you looked over the S.E.C. rosters you might be suprised how many are from the Memphis area. Would it not serve the Big East well to make a team that has some success as a "non-contending" conference team and give them the weapons to steal back the S.E.C. players therefore taking the S.E.C. down a notch? Do you really think the talented Memphis players would leave town when they can stay home and "compete" for a championship? Sure, some will still go but that is common, but at least others who would prefer to stay, but want a chance for a championship would now have that opportunity.

    Truth is, if Memphis had the income other BCS schools had they would be able to add new facilities, spend more for recruiting, and finally have a reason for a big name coach to come. Tommy West is a bad football coach but when you don't have the money to fire him and bring in a "topnotch" coach you are pretty much stuck in a mediocre circle.


  • Yes, Memphis does have a football team, but it's still interesting to note that the Tigers spent $33.39 million on athletics during the 2008 fiscal year - the most recent data available. $7.85 million of that was spent on basketball. DePaul spent $14.34 million total and just $2.79 million on basketball. The amount Memphis spent total is comparable to Big East schools like Cincinnati ($33.89 million) and South Florida ($32.60 million). The Big East wouldn't necessarily mean bigger and better things for the Tigers either.

  • In reply to johntemplon:

    What else does Depaul have besides basketball? Looks like Memphis is willing to dish out money to be successful, maybe 2.79m is the reason they went 0-Season?

    Memphis is loaded with talent, and if we like yours (Dorsey, CDR, Barton, Evans, Rose, etc..), we'll take yours.

    Give us a real football coach, a chance for a bcs title, and 5-8 years and I'd bet on a top 25 team year in and year out..... That DeAngelo Williams and Steven Gostkowski tandem from a couple years ago seems to be doing quite well in the NFL right now, Depaul got any NFL'rs?

  • In reply to johntemplon:

    Another point you mentioned....rivalries.
    So DePaul has a rivalry with Marquette from CUSA.
    Memphis has rivalries with Louisville and Cincinatti from CUSA, the Great Midwest (in Cincy's case), the Metro Conference, all the way back to the Missouri Valley Conference.
    Louisville fans may deny it...but their games with Memphis were intense...and they miss our basketball series.
    Its more of a rivalry than DePaul and Marquette will ever be.
    No offense.

  • In reply to johntemplon:

    How much larger is Chicago then Memphis? Now, how many more comments (on a Chicago paper) are from Memphis fans compared to DePaul fans? That in itself is very telling. Memphis would be a huge addition to the Big East....several posters have already given some obvious reasons.

  • In reply to johntemplon:

    Mr. Templeton, you haven't done your homework very well.. #1 even the doormat teams from C-USA could give lowly DePaul all it could handle. I watch Big East Ball and DePaul is clearly out of its league. You can argue that Memphis doesn't add any additional value to the Big East over that of a Louisville or a Syracuse, but don't even begin to tell me that DePaul brings more to the table than Memphis. Even though we have struggled in Football because of poor facilities and mediocre coaching at best, it is amazing what we've done in the HEART of SEC Football country. The simple addition of attachment to a BCS Conference would mean much better recruiting thus leading to the upgrade of football facilities. In basketball Memphis produces just as many top athletes as Chicago does year in and year out. The difference is a higher percentage stay home because of a winning tradition at Memphis. DePaul's tradition is only a fading memory because it has been so long since it has had consistent success. You failed to mention that even in the years Memphis has not made it to the final four, we have had many runs in the NCAA and even in less successful years been NIT Champs so once again, there is no comparison with present day DePaul. Your past success in the late '70's and '80s isn't going to make me want to watch DePaul Basketball so quit living in the past. Finally, your attempt to paint the DePaul/Marquette rivalry as intense is WEAK! It will never be on the same level as Memphis/Louisville or even Memphis/Cincinnati. The fact of the matter is that The Big East would greatly benefit from the total package Memphis can bring to the table, not to mention the ability to stir the pot in SEC country, which is a threat to SEC recruiting and long-term success.

  • In reply to johntemplon:

    First off, I'd like to thank all of the Memphis fans for posting your thoughts about the program, it's obvious that the Tigers have inspired a very passionate fan base. The Cincinnati/Memphis rivalry is one that I overlooked while writing my post and it seems to be a major oversight in my argument. On the other hand, I do think that DePaul provides value to the Big East - especially in the non-revenue sports. It just seems impossible for the Big East to continue to expand - especially considering it's 16-team basketball conference - without starting to shed some of the weaker members and I would hate to see DePaul thrown out to the curb. I think that is probably a separate post and an issue to tackle another day - as is the 9-team football conference the addition of Memphis would create.

  • In reply to johntemplon:

    Never underestimate the Memphis Tigers or our fanbase, give us a bcs affiliation and get out of the way...... GO TIGERS

    Mr. Templon, you do realize the son of FedEx founder Fred Smith has transferred to the UofM for next season as our quarterback dont you? You don't think Fred will be willing to dump money into his son's program to ensure he has a good college experience and a chance to compete for a title? Why don't you go ask Olive Branch H.S. in north Mississippi how their school changed with his arrival, it turned into a FedEx billboard, of course you know this because you did your homework before bloggin right??

    (p.s.- don't worry about losing the Marquette/Depaul rivalry, we can just pick up the old C-USA games between Memphis/Marquette as the new BigEast game...... $1 says the latter would get a higher national tv rating anyway)

  • In reply to johntemplon:

    Mr. Templon,
    non-revenue sports are just that...non-revenue. They don't generate money. The BCS has proven that college athletics run on revenue sports (and even basketball runs a distant second to football in these matters; there's just more seats in a football stadium). Now if you look at what Mr. Tranghese said when he was hired ("I just think the (Memphis) program has enormous potential to be better than what it is right now.", "The thing that Memphis has that you can't buy is incredible fan support. You can't buy that. It's there and it's better than a lot of programs that are in major leagues") it would seem as though the shortcomings that may be there with the U of M now (mediocre football and facilities) are well on their way to being addressed. I would also note football-wise that during the 2003 season when DeAngelo Williams lead the Tiger Football team to a 9-4 record attendance averaged 40,000. Now, I ask you sir, does that sound like something DePaul can offer the Big East?

  • In reply to johntemplon:

    Also on the basketball recruiting issue Memphis' natural recruiting base is not merely Tennessee, but Mississippi and Arkansas as well since Memphis is a border city. According to the 2011 Top 100 includes a whopping 11 players from TN, MS, and AR. Further Memphis has proven itself to be a national recruiter (note the commitment even post-Calipari of Baltimore stud Will Barton). Sounds like a recruiting boon for any conference to have

  • In reply to johntemplon:

    Leave a comment... think the thing to remember is football. It will come down to the Big East figuring out the best way to break this conference down in two or three years. They need to consider ten to twelve teams for football. They could add Memphis, So. Miss( bad ass football program), UCF, and East Carolina. This would bring football to twelve, and keep Georgetown and Villanova. All the other basketball teams are mediocre and not going to be reclaiming past glory. Those schools ( St. Johns, Providence, Seton Hall, and Depaul need to go to smaller leagues to allow them to compete against schools they have a chance of winning against.) Marquette would fit great into the Missouri Valley, maybe DePaul too.

    However, Memphis should be the first of the four new schools to maintain the basketball prestige. So. Miss and ECU need basketball facility replacements, not upgrades. Their arenas are absolutely run down. UCF has a 10,000 seat arena built in 2007, so they're good, just need to be competitive in hoops now. But I know it doesn't completley solve all the questions people will say with bad hoops they dont belong in.

    However, every conference needs a couple teams that aren't so good. Big East has that, those schools just dont compete in football. I know the Johnnies have a lot of tradition, but this is about strengthning the league in football, which they need to do before the MTN West takes the big easts BCS bid.

    Notre Dame should be thrown out of the Big East for being the biggest dousches to the big east of all time. GET THE HELL OUT!!!
    Im not hating on the Catholic schools, b/c I am Catholic. But this is a neccessary move to strengthen the conference. For instance two 6 team divisions in football, and 7 for basketball.

    South: Memphis, So. Miss, UCF , USF, ECU, Louisville (Georgetown)
    North: Syracuse, Pitt, UCONN, WVA, CIncy, Rutgers, (Villanova)

    I think this would work out better than expected. G'Town and Nova wouldn't mind b/c they know they would still be very valued as basketball schools, but not fall under the same category as the other mediocre basketball only schools.

    P.S. I am from Memphis, but I am a Tennessee Fan. GO Vols!! almost got TEBOWS talentless ass on saturday.

    And there would also be a football championship game.
    FedEx could sponsor it since its from Memphis, and the game could be played at FedEx field in Washington. 92,000 seats. Think the Big East could pack it?

  • In reply to jhbaranski:

    I think this will be interesting to watch as conferences continue to restructure over the next few years (especially when the BCS finishes) but I doubt Marquette or DePaul would be happy in the MVC. That seems like a big step down for both basketball programs. The Golden Eagles have been one of the most competitive teams in the Big East since it expanded to 16 teams.

  • In reply to johntemplon:

    Maybe Marquette, but DePaul could use the break to rebuild their program. Plus, Creighton and Bradley are catholic schools too. But I think something will happen with Memphis and E. Carolina for sure. UCF and So. Miss are long shots, but i'll let you know what I hear out of Geoff Calkins fat mouth about it. However, if the big east choses to do nothing, the MTN. West might be able to snag its automatic bid, so DePaul and others should think about how they are holding back their conference.

  • In reply to johntemplon:

    This article was ridiculous four months ago and still is. John Templeton, don't get me wrong. You seem to be a great guy and have very nice journalism skills but this article is just another example of a biased, homer writer that either ignores fact or just isn't aware of it. Cal refused to recruit Memphis kids because he wanted a national roster so the Memphis kids went elsewhere. The 1985 Final Four team was entirely made up entirely of memphis players. Cal's Memphis recruiting position is just one of many things you either intentionally ignore or just weren't aware of. Ask Bruce Pearl about the players Memphis turns out. Bottom line Cal's teams were stacked and it doesn't matter where a coach gets the players. Memphis is a basketball program that is a BCS conference away from being a UCLA or Kansas. Coach Pastner has assembled a top 5 class with primarily Memphis kids. Do you realize how many good players the city turns out? Memphis is one of the best basketball talent producing cities in the country and that is a fairly well known fact even mentioned by analyst like Digger Phelps and Dick Vitale. Also, talking about the Memphis program you blame the school for what Derrick Rose is accused of doing and what Dana Kirk went to jail for. I also believe that anytime a non BCS power makes it to the Final Four the NCAA will do whatever is necessary to take that away (notice I said power, the George Mason's of the world help the NCAA). While letting a school like Michigan and the Fab 5 debacle (which makes ANYTHING Memphis has ever been accused of look like child's play) that actually ended up in court go by without mention. You then bag on the Memphis football program (without your school even having one) when all the Memphis program needs for a move to the Big East is potential not history. Memphis has plenty of potential in it's football program with a large stadium, a fan base that will show up, a new coach that has made huge strides recruiting (and that is while still in C-USA) and a bowl game with great tradition to bring with them. Memphis would be far and away better for the Big East than DePaul or several other schools for that matter. Much like adding another Louisville who's football program was nothing just a few years back. Don't worry C-USA will take you back.

  • Tommy West: "Come to Memphis"

    Recruit: "For what?"

    West: "To compete for a C-USA title and go to the Arby's Bowl"

    Recruit: "nah"

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