The University of Memphis Tigers are enjoying much success in many of their athletic programs thanks to a great commitment from the university, fans and boosters.
This shows in the two college ranking polls — Associated Press and USA Today Coaches — where both main revenue sports, basketball and football, are in the top 25.
This is not only uncommon for Memphis, but puts them in esteemed territory in America. The Tigers are joined by only four other colleges, where both teams are ranked and could maintain their status in that company for a while since both continue to win in impressive style.
Dr. M. David Rudd, U of M president, and new Athletic Director Laid Veatch (from the University of Florida where he served as associate AD), who replaced Tom Bowen, seem keen to make sure the Tigers have some of the best programs every year and aren’t shy about showing it.
They have put money in the right places for the most part, although they have to be creative as Memphis isn’t in a power conference. The team is in the American Athletic Conference and does not enjoy the same benefits as other top programs when it comes to making money.
That said, the university has made great hires when needed to maintain a high level of play. Basketball Coach Penny Hardaway and Football Coach Mike Norvell are doing their best to keep the “Tiger Train” rolling.
Veatch said this at his introductory press conference in August, “When you are looking at these types of opportunities, the president was nice enough to mention I checked a few boxes for him. We had our boxes, too. We look for certain things. Certainly leadership, it starts there. Quality of coaches and staff. The support from the fan base and the quality of the institution. And really the culture of the place.”
Speaking of fan support, basketball suffered a big drop in attendance for a few years, but after the hiring of Hardaway, the program has seen a resurgence in interest. It shows with average attendance now up.
The Tigers’ average home attendance at FedEx- Forum last season was 14,065, up from 6,225 in 2017-18, according to the final attendance report by the NCAA.
Not only that, during a recent U of M football game against a ranked Southern Methodist University team, the Tigers had the Liberty Bowl at near capacity and set a conference game attendance record with 59,506 after having hosted College GameDay on Beale Street.
When Hardaway took the job he said this in an interview with The Undefeated, ““The city raised me, I’ve been very successful at basketball, and everything I do. I do it for the city, and I’m just excited to be in this position. I look forward to the fans coming back to the FedExForum, packing the house like we did in the Coliseum and in the Pyramid. I’m looking forward to those days coming back. I’m excited. I hope that everybody’s riding the waves, and I hope that I can put Memphis back on the map.”
Well he certainly has put Memphis basketball back on the map in a big way, luring in the number one ranked recruiting class last year and having the team playing very well to start the season.
Mike Norvell also has been very successful in his tenure at Memphis, having the team sitting at 10-1 after defeating the University of South Florida and in prime contention to make a big time bowl game.
If they can win their remaining two games, Memphis could be looking at a Cotton Bowl Classic berth, one of the nine major bowl games in college football.
This is a wonderful time to be a Memphis Tigers fan, with success garnering attention across the nation and the city being back on the map in big time college athletics.
If this trend continues, the sky is the limit for these teams and we could be looking at some grand rewards in the post season for both programs. Time will tell. Go Tigers!