The University of Memphis football team is back in the Tigers Den Friday, marching toward what could the program’s most successful season of all-time.
The Tigers host the Tulane Green Wave, and hope to ride the wave of success with double digit wins, a conference championship, and New Year’s Day bowl all within reach.
Friday’s game will be the sixth of eight games shown on national TV. School leaders and supporters say that exposure, and the wins, are paying off and enhancing the university’s profile and appeal.
“This has been a great fall, an unprecedented fall,” says University of Memphis Athletic Director Tom Bowen.
At 6 and 1 and in 1st place in the American Athletic Conference’s west division, the Memphis Tigers football team is winning big, and Tigers fans are dreaming big.
“This is just really, really important and it’s exciting, it sure gets people talking,” says fan Bob Byrd.
Tigers football is now the talk of the town, thanks to four straight bowl eligible seasons, including this year, where a conference championship and prestigious bowl are still in play if Memphis.
“It has an incredibly important impact not just on the University but on the city of Memphis because they are co-branded and interdependent, so when one succeeds, so does the other,” says Byrd.
Long-time University of Memphis supporter and alumnus Bob Byrd said the football team’s athletic success is a major factor in helping the university’s admissions, and boosting academics in recent years.
“This will bring better graduates and of course better business people in the city and I think everyone wins,” says Byrd.
The Memphis Tigers winning football team is also proving to be a big winner for the program’s and Mid-South businesses bottom lines.
As the football wins pile up, so does apparel sales and the value of the Memphis football brand.
“Athletics is definitely propelling a lot of national attention and we’re very excited to be part of that,” says Bowen. “Our season tickets have never been higher, then we’re also getting day of game sales have never been better.”
If Memphis wins against Tulane, it could lead to a division title, an American Athletic Conference title, and 11 wins for the first time in the program’s more than a century history.
“These student athletes come out and compete for each other, for our university, for our city,” says Bowen.
“It’s been super exciting, the city loves getting behind the football team,” says Tracy Shipp, Tiger Book Store’s Digital Media Manager.
And while the Tigers bust through the line of scrimmage, the team is also boosting the bottom line at the Tiger Book Store, just off U of M’s campus.
“There’s definitely an uptick,” says Shipp. “We have our game day T-shirts that are really popular and the tailgating supplies and of course all the Tiger Blue that everyone’s wearing, it’s good times.”
And those good times on the football team are bound to help Memphis’ overall athletic department impact. A study in 2015 found Memphis athletics created a regional $101 million economic impact. The football team has rattled off three straight bowl seasons since that study.
University leaders tell Local 24 they expect at least 40,000 fans Friday night.