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'Stay Proud, Tigers Fans' | University of Memphis letter on conference realignment

"The final whistle hasn’t blown, and it’s far from over. Intercollegiate athletics and conference realignment will continue to evolve at a rapid pace."

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — As the Big 12 announced it has invited BYU, UCF, Cincinnati, and Houston to join the conference, University of Memphis President Dr. M. David Rudd and Tigers Athletic Director Laird Veatch have issued a letter to Tigers fans to stay strong and proud.

In the letter, they said their understanding is that the decision to not include Memphis came down to the size of the institutions and market size.

The Big 12 extended the invitations after losing Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC.

RELATED: Big 12 invites BYU, UCF, Cincinnati and Houston to join

You can read the full letter below, as well as a statement from AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco.

Stay proud, Tiger fans.

As we enter one of the most anticipated years for Tiger Athletics, we are all disappointed with the latest developments in the conference realignment landscape. We know you are frustrated, and we are right there with you.

But stay proud. Stay proud of what we are accomplishing together and the progress we’re making. Stay proud of how far we have come together. Memphis Athletics, the University and the City of Memphis are collectively in the best position we have ever been in our history. Across the many conversations we have had in recent weeks, Memphis has clearly been in the center of the conversation as one of the most successful and promising programs in the country. Our understanding is that this latest round of expansion for the Big 12 essentially came down to the size of the institutions and the markets in which they reside.

But the final whistle hasn’t blown, and it’s far from over. Intercollegiate athletics and conference realignment will continue to evolve at a rapid pace. With that will come more change and more opportunity. Know that we are being strategic, proactive and aggressive in our efforts. We must continue to compete at the highest level and support our programs. Rest assured, we will not be slowing down our efforts, nor will we be lowering our expectations. Our current trajectory is remarkably positive, and we only plan on accelerating it. We must continue to invest in our infrastructure and in the American Athletic Conference. As we move forward together, let us all collectively remind the nation that Memphis is on the rise, across all domains of our University.

Stay proud of our University’s momentum, and that we are poised for elite Carnegie R1 status in 2021. That we are nationally recognized as one of the top 12 universities in graduating African American students. That since our University Board of Trustees was created five years ago, we have invested nearly $200 million in campus construction. 

Stay proud of our football program’s high-level success, and that only Memphis, Alabama, Clemson, Georgia and Oklahoma have won at least eight games in each of the last seven seasons. That we have the 10th-most wins in the nation since 2014. That we have the longest bowl game streak in the conference. 

Stay proud of our men’s basketball program’s elite status, and that only Memphis, Kansas, Gonzaga and Syracuse have won at least 18 games in each of the last 21 seasons. That we are in the top 10 in the nation in average home attendance. That we have had the country’s top recruiting class in two of the last three seasons. 

Stay proud that we graduate our student-athletes. That we serve one of the most diverse populations in America. That we have set our sights on investing in the future with the #MemphisRising strategic and facilities master plan. That we are part of and have the support of this great City that has three Fortune 500 company headquarters, 100 Fortune 500 companies operating here and $19 billion in planned investments underway. 

This all matters. People around the country are noticing. Let’s all continue to make them recognize that we’re on the rise, together. Be proud, and as Memphis always does – keep competing. 

Go Tigers!

Dr. M. David Rudd
University of Memphis President

Laird Veatch
Vice President and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics

American Athletic Conference Commissioner Mike Aresco also issued a statement on the announcement by the Big 12 Conference.

Today’s news confirms what we have said all along regarding our status as a power conference. The irony that three of our schools are being asked to take the place of the two marquee schools which are leaving the Big 12 is not lost on us. Our conference was targeted for exceeding expectations in a system that wasn’t designed to accommodate our success.

All three of these institutions have enjoyed unprecedented success as members of The American, as have our remaining schools. Many of our schools have achieved competitive success similar to the departing schools. We have every expectation that the three departing schools will abide by the conference bylaws to ensure an amicable and orderly transition. We wish them continued success in the future.

Our remaining schools are unwavering in their commitment to competing and succeeding at the highest level and we will not allow external factors to put a ceiling on our potential. We remain unified and resolute and will consider all of our options as we move The American into our second decade and beyond.