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What Is The Damn Problem?

Posted by Ryne E. Hancock on December 17, 2008

In the 91 years prior to 2003, the football program at the University of Memphis had only three Bowl appearances, the last coming in 1971 when Fred Pancoast led the Missouri Valley Conference-champion Tigers to the Pasadena Bowl.

Thirty-two years later, Tommy West and legendary running back DeAngelo Williams, now with the Carolina Panthers, led the Tigers to the New Orleans Bowl where they would beat North Texas and begin a stretch of five Bowl games in six seasons, being one of only a handful of schools to do that.

While for the fact this would be a huge accomplishment for a once moribund program, it hasn’t been the case for the Tigers, who has seen attendance drop to 25,000 fans per game, a far cry from the 41,000 average that came to the Liberty Bowl in 2004 to see DeAngelo Williams and company.

And now the question that one would pose to the uninformed observer would be this: what is the damn problem with the Tiger football program?

OK, I know two reasons of the problems with the Tiger football program, the first one being that Memphis is a basketball school first and foremost and will always be that way.

But that’s no valid excuse because in recent years, basketball powerhouses like Louisville, which as we all know was a member of Conference USA and decided to pump money and energy into their football program by building new facilities including a brand-new, on-campus stadium to replace aging Cardinal Stadium in 1998.

For that reason, the Cardinals are in the Big East and the Tigers are still toiling in Conference USA.

In the last eight years, the Tigers have spent a grand total of $6 million on football-related improvements and are finishing a fund raising campaign worth $3 million to build a new state-of-the-art weight room at the Murphy Athletic Complex.

That’s probably a third of Nick Saban’s salary at Alabama.

Another valid point is the fact that, instead of watching the Tigers, fans would rather head to Oxford, Starkville, or Knoxville to watch quality football, and from a person who has a bunch of friends that cheer for Ole Miss, Mississippi State, or Tennessee, that’s a justifiable reason.

They have a great tailgating atmosphere, meaning the tailgate area is close to the stadium and not miles away and they have tradition in their programs as well.

Memphis doesn’t.

Then you have to throw in the fact that Memphis, unlike those three schools, schedule non-conference foes like McNeese State, Nicholls State, and neighborhood rival Arkansas State on a regular basis.

Tennessee this year went to UCLA, Mississippi State went up against Georgia Tech and West Virginia this season, and Ole Miss last season played Missouri on the road.

People, from what I’ve learned in Sport and Event Planning class, aren’t going to be amped for a game against Nicholls State or Arkansas State.

They’re not going to return if the atmosphere around the stadium sucks balls.

And finally, no one is going to return if the team isn’t winning (see the Grizzlies for proof).

So what needs to be done?

You tell me.

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2 Responses to “What Is The Damn Problem?”

  1. tophatal1 said

    doc hancock
    There’s no disputing that the Memphis Tigers do have problems. But they can’t always be solved with the wave of a magic wand. It takes time and a great deal of soul searching on the paths of the coaching staff , players and above all the AD as to the direction that the program pursues. Until they get that situation sorted out that tends to be what holds a program in check.

    tophatal ………………

  2. MJ said

    Sorry Tophatal…for some reason this got stuck in the Spam queue for a week…my apologies.

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