Memphis's vague assertions of FedEx dollars are a thing of the past. CBS's Gary Parrish is reporting that in light of canceling its sponsorship of the Orange Bowl, FedEx is prepared to offer the Big East $10 million yearly to invite Memphis. Fred Smith might be the most committed booster this side of T. Boone Pickens.
Clearly, if true this gambit elevates Memphis, undesirable on its own due to poor location and a weak football program, past fellow C-USA candidates UCF (believed to be the Big East's favorite), and ECU (whose A.D. has made grovelling before the Big East practically into a sport).
Does Memphis make sense as an independent addition however? The problem with evaluating that question is getting an accurate picture of the present state of Big East finances. The Big East chose to re-up with ESPN four years ago over starting its own network in the name of stability.
What's clear is that the Big East's television contract runs for six years from 2007-2013, but I've seen both $200m and $250m figures bandied about. The Providence Journal's figures don't really fit either of those estimates.
The Big East generates somewhere between $4-6 million for its eight football schools. The eight schools that don’t play football in the conference, like Providence College, don’t share a dime of football money. They pocket somewhere around $1.7 million a year from the conference.
Rutgers spokesman Jason Baum was recently quoted as stating that the athletic department took in $6.3m in conference revenue last year. That throws yet another wrench into getting an accurate picture here.
What IS clear is that while $10m a year is an impressive figure on the surface, it's far less attractive split seventeen ways, or even in some sort of deal weighted to benefit the football schools. Under that scenario, Memphis cannot simply buy their way into the Big East. However, if the conference were to split, and Memphis joined as the ninth member of an all-sports conference, then this deal makes their candidacy far more viable on the merits.