Like mating season on the Serengeti Plains, suitors are flocking to the Big 12 flapping their wings, puffing their chests, and giving brilliant displays of color as the annual conference realignment talk has signaled that the Big 12 may be ready to mate.
No one is making their intentions known more than Memphis. The Tiger’s haven’t been shy in their pursuit of the conference. However, to what extent is a little eye-opening. Documents obtained by ESPN’s Jake Trotter show that the school is ready to put their money where their mouth is, and shipping giant FedEx is providing additional incentive to consider the Tigers.
In a letter sent to West Virginia president Gordon Gee, with Oklahoma president David Boren and Baylor president Ken Starr copied, Memphis president David Rudd pledged that Memphis would invest at least half a billion dollars in academic and athletic infrastructure of the next five years.
Also included in the letter to Gee, who is one of three presidents on the Big 12’s composition committee along with Boren and Starr, was a note FedEx chairman Fred Smith sent to Rudd.
“We strongly support the university’s efforts to become a member of an expanded Big 12 athletic conference,” Smith wrote. “In support of [Memphis’] Big 12 aspirations, we have researched college conference sponsorships and are prepared to become a major Big 12 sponsor of football and basketball.
“We believe the University of Memphis and the Big 12 are a great fit and hope our support will contribute to the University of Memphis becoming a member of this storied athletic conference in the near future.”
That my friends, is a game changer, and according to Jake Trotter, the Memphis-based shipping conglomerate has also pledged to sponsor a Big 12 championship game.
It is still not clear whether or not the conference should expand, but an offer like that doesn’t just move Memphis to the front of the line, it could help nudge those still on the fence about expansion.