UNIVERSITY OF MEMPHIS JOINS BIG EAST CONFERENCE

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. -
The BIG EAST Conference has formally announced the addition of the University of Memphis, an institution with a national profile that has achieved impressive athletic success, as a full conference member. The Tigers will begin competing in the BIG EAST in the 2013-14 academic year.
 
The BIG EAST Conference Board of Directors, by a unanimous vote of its Presidents, extended the invitation for membership to Memphis.  
 
The addition of Memphis brings the BIG EAST's football membership to 12 schools.  Ultimately, the BIG EAST will have 17 full members. In December, the BIG EAST announced the additions of the University of Central Florida, University of Houston and Southern Methodist University as full members and Boise State University and San Diego State University as football members. In January, the Naval Academy was added as a football member.  
 
The addition of Memphis, along with the five schools announced in December and Navy, will boost the BIG EAST's television reach to more than 31 million homes, which is nearly 28 percent of all U.S. television households. Thirteen conference members will be located among the top 30 television markets and 17 will be in the top 50.
 
The BIG EAST already had the largest media footprint in college athletics and the addition of Memphis makes that footprint even larger. 
 
"Over the past decade, the University of Memphis has demonstrated an unwavering commitment of competing at the highest level in college sports," said BIG EAST Commissioner John Marinatto.  "The University has positioned itself for long-term success by upgrading facilities and investing wisely in various areas of the athletic department including coaching and administration.  We are confident that the addition of this outstanding athletics program located in a top 50 media market and in the heart of the nation's largest conference footprint will further propel the BIG EAST and the University of Memphis to even greater levels of success in the future."
 
"It is with great pleasure that we officially welcome the University of Memphis to the BIG EAST Conference," stated Judy Genshaft, University of South Florida President and Chair of the BIG EAST Board of Directors.  "Our Board was very impressed with the University, its ongoing commitment to academic and athletic excellence, as well as its strong community support.  We are excited about renewing old relationships, starting new ones and look forward to working together with President Raines and her team in the future."
 
The University of Memphis, founded in 1912, is one of Tennessee's three comprehensive doctoral-extensive institutions of higher learning.  The University has 26 Chairs of Excellence, more than any other Tennessee university, and five state-approved Centers of Excellence.  The school offers 17 bachelor's degrees in 55 majors.
 
"This is an historical day for the University of Memphis," said Dr. Shirley C. Raines, University of Memphis President.  "On behalf of the faculty, staff, alumni, fans, students and especially, our student-athletes, we are thrilled to accept the invitation from the BIG EAST Conference to become a member in all sports in 2013.  We are grateful to President Judy Genshaft and the entire BIG EAST Conference Board for their unanimous vote for the University of Memphis and Tiger athletics."
 
"This is an exciting day for Tiger athletics," said Memphis Athletics Director R.C. Johnson.  "Many years ago we set as a departmental goal the task ofbeing the best that we could be in every athletic endeavor.  With today's invitation to join many of our friends in such a prestigious conference means we have achieved one of our top missions."
 
Memphis sponsors 19 sports, 10 men's and nine women's.  The men's basketball team has enjoyed national success for decades.  The Tigers, who play in the FedExForum, have made 23 appearances in the NCAA Championship, have reached the NCAA Final Four three times and played in the 2008 national championship game.  They have compiled a 32-23 NCAA record in the men's tournament.  The Tigers football team has earned bowl invitations in five of the last nine years.  Justin Fuente is the football program's new head coach.
 
In the last eight years, Memphis teams have won 17 conference championships in men's basketball, men's soccer, women's soccer, women's golf and men's track and field.  The men's basketball program has captured five regular-season conference titles and five tournament championships.  The women's soccer program has won five straight league crowns and made five straight NCAA appearances from 2007-11.
 
Memphis student-athletes have earned significant academic success.  The U of M had a school-record 217 student-athletes achieve a 3.0 GPA or better in the 2011 fall semester, including 27 student-athletes who posted a 4.0 GPA.  For the second straight semester, Memphis student-athletes, as a whole, tallied a mark of 3.0 or higher.  In 2010-11, seven teams achieved their highest semester GPAs during the 2010-11 academic year.
 
In 2015, the BIG EAST football membership will consist of Boise State, UCF, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Houston, Louisville, Memphis, Navy, Rutgers, San Diego State, SMU and USF.
 
In 2015, the BIG EAST basketball membership will include UCF, Cincinnati, Connecticut, DePaul, Georgetown, Houston, Louisville, Marquette, Memphis, Notre Dame, Providence, Rutgers, St. John's, Seton Hall, SMU, USF and Villanova.