The case for the Tigers:
Memphis’ 2015 season could not have gone much better for a school looking to make the jump up from the AAC to the Big 12. The Tigers, a historically weak program, went 9-4, including a shocking 37-24 beat down of SEC West power Ole Miss, one of the country’s most talented teams. This came off of a great 10-3 2014 campaign, and led to Justin Fuente getting the head coaching job at Virginia Tech and quarterback Paxton Lynch being drafted in the first round by the Denver Broncos. Memphis football has never been as hot as it is right now. The basketball program, while an underachiever in recent seasons under Josh Pastner, has a history of success, and made a nice hire, bringing in Tubby Smith, after Pastner jumped shipped to Georgia Tech. The Tigers are in a decent media market, ranked No. 48 in the country, and would help the league spread the footprint East a bit, without making too huge a jump. Memphis is under 500 miles from the two Oklahoma schools. The Tigers are also never shy when it comes to realignment. When this process starts to really heat up, Memphis will be out there marketing itself as much as any other school.
The case against the Tigers:
Memphis runs the risk of being a serious flash in the pan program, especially with Fuente gone. While the hiring of Arizona State offensive coordinator Mike Norvell is a nice one on paper, there is no guarantee that he will keep the momentum going, and the Big 12 doesn’t need to add a program that can’t be competitive on a regular basis. Expansion into the Southeast is nice, but Tennessee is one of the weaker states in the area at producing football talent. Per 247Sports, the state currently has seven total blue chip recruits in the 2017 recruiting class. Georgia has 33. It is also very doubtful that Memphis eats into the state’s college football consciousness much, with Tennessee gradually improving under Butch Jones.
If Memphis could guarantee that it continues to play at its 2014-15 level, the Tigers would be a very strong addition. Unfortunately, it is pretty impossible to predict based on Memphis’ program to this point.