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Big 12 Expansion: Why NOT Memphis

Hey, someone has to say it.

I can't help but notice all the Auburn orange in this shot.
I can't help but notice all the Auburn orange in this shot.
Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier, we talked with Christopher Hondros to get a cogent and meaningful argument in favor of the inclusion of Memphis in the Big 12. Now, it's time to tear that argument to pieces in the name of internet outrage. Sorry, Tiger fans. All seven of you.

Who's going to show up?

Let's get this out of the way right now: you know those jokes about Miami fans? Unless Memphis is threatening to win 11 games, the Liberty Bowl bears a remarkable resemblance to Sun Life Stadium. Data provided to the Memphis Flyer demonstrates this in more than adequate fashion: in 2012, the Tigers drew 67,181 fans.

No, not per game. For the entire season. That's barely 11,000 per game. For chrissakes, as much as we joke about the Jayhawks, they draw more than that even if you subtract visiting fans invading their stadium. In 2012, Memphis played local FBS rival Tennessee-Martin in their home opener and somehow managed to get 21,000 people to show up. That same year, Tennessee State played Jackson State at the Liberty Bowl in the Southern Heritage Classic, and 24,000 people walked through the turnstiles for that one.

If you can't outdraw a regular-season FCS HBCU game played by two teams who both reside three hours away from the stadium, you have a problem. I don't care how bad your team was that year. (They actually won four games, so it's not like the Tigers were suffering KU levels of ineptitude.)

Pastnerized for your safety

Chris noted the inevitable Kansas-Memphis rivalry in basketball should the Tigers buy an invite. Memphis has a storied basketball history. Unfortunately, that story is full of asterisks and shame. Only one team in the history of the NCAA tournament has had to vacate two completely separate Final Four appearances. Memphis (State) made the final four in 1985, losing in the semifinal to Villanova; that officially didn't happen, though. Dana Kirk saw to that, as his program was so rife with cheating that Memphis was forced to vacate five whole seasons.

But that's not the kicker; you can't point to a potential Kansas-Memphis rivalry without noting that officially Mario Chalmers beat nobody in 2008. You all remember the Derrick Rose SAT scandal, right? Well, the end result of that was that Memphis was forced to vacate that appearance as well.

And then there's Josh Pastner, a coach that Memphis -- a school which is supposedly backed financially by a gigantic global shipping conglomerate -- couldn't afford to fire. Somehow, Georgia Tech decided to take Pastner off their hands, and the entire ACC is still chortling about that.

What we're getting at here is that while Memphis hoops has traditionally run roughshod over lesser competition, the reality is that they've never actually accomplished much of anything -- and everything they have accomplished has been the result of cheating. Dirty, filthy, cheating. They'd fit right in with the SEC.

I am Memphis, destroyer of conferences

Memphis used to be a member of the Missouri Valley, which ceased to be relevant for 20 years after Memphis (and Cincinnati and Houston and Louisville) all left. Then they joined the Metro, which they helped murder by leaving to help form the Great Midwest -- a conference with lasted all of four seasons before merging back into the Metro to form Conference USA. And then the Tigers became a proximal cause for the breakup of the Big East; none of the established basketball powers wanted Memphis in their league, basically.

Then again, the Big 12 is probably going to fall apart in a decade anyway, so I guess this isn't really that much of an argument against letting them join. But Memphis has spent their entire existence trying to beg better conferences to let them come play, and repaid the eventual kindness of strangers with death and decay.


Nothing is more obnoxious than internet food wars, and we're actually going to consider adding a third warring faction to the KC-vs-Texas barbecue conflict? That's just insanity, people.

Memphis barbecue is fine. I mean, it's not that slop they serve in North Carolina, and they don't use whatever that weird white sauce is that the hill people use deep in the heart of SEC country. But once you let them in the door, all you're going to hear is how Joe's Kansas City is overrated. Nobody wants that.

Unrelated, but similar: nobody wants endless establishing shots of Graceland during every Memphis game either.

What are we, prostitutes?

It hasn't escaped our attention that Memphis was a fringe candidate in these discussions until FedEx decided to dangle their checkbook. We get it. Money is the driver here. It's really important. But good god, people, are we really so desperate for the approval of the national college football media elite that we'll just sell membership to the conference like papal indulgences?

It's bribery. Pure unadulterated bribery, and it's bribery involving state officials if you really want to get technical about it. Again, corruption is an SEC principle. The Big 12 prefers incompetence.

In summary

This isn't the worst idea in the world. But it's also not the best. There's no ill will toward Memphis here; hell, we were openly rooting for them to go unbeaten last year, we laughed for days after they beat Mississippi, and they were a lot of fun to watch the last two years.

Of course, Justin Fuente and Paxton Lynch are gone now. Remember that year Tulane went unbeaten? Remember what happened to them afterward? They didn't even have the excuse of having their level of competition suddenly increase. Our biggest fear, and this is far more serious than the tongue-in-cheek rebuttals above, is that inviting Memphis merely adds another bottom-feeder to the conference. There's a sense that BYU would compete, and that Cincinnati and Houston wouldn't embarrass themselves. Memphis seems primed for another walk through the desert, so it's the worst possible time to invite them.

Let the hate flow, Memphis. We're ready for you.