Some jobs have been among the best for years, others have started to rise from mediocrity, and then there is the Memphis Tigers job. It can be argued that this job WAS one of the worst in all of college football. It was a dreadful program in a city that just didn't care. Then Justin Fuente saved the day.
During his time at Memphis he returned prestige to the program, won a ton of games, and got the city on his side. Now, Memphis has FedEx willing to spend lots of money and rich donors coming out of the woodwork. What a difference a few years make as Memphis has broken into the top four jobs in the conference.
How does the Memphis head coaching job stack up versus other jobs in the AAC?
- FedEx is willing to sling money. FedEx is willing to spend lots of money and the school has claimed that they will invest a reported $500 million dollars.
- The SEC will visit. Since 1990, Alabama (1x), Arkansas (3x), Ole Miss (9x), Mississippi State (8x), Missouri (1x), and Tennessee (5x) have played Memphis at the Liberty Bowl.
- The fans are showing up. After drawing only 20,078 fans per game in 2011, the Tigers were second in the AAC with 43,802 in 2015. They had the second biggest jump in attendance of any FBS team from the 2014 season (9,951).
- A budget to work with. While it was only the #7 budget in the AAC in 2015, Memphis is willing to spend money. The budget has been in the $43-50 million range for each of the past four years.
- Memphis has the same problem as UAB and South Alabama. The Liberty Bowl is a relic to the past that has been beaten up and should probably be replaced. A new on-campus stadium would be ideal, but it has to be big enough to host the Liberty Bowl Game.
- It has been a tough ride. Justin Fuente is the first head coach to leave Memphis with a winning record since the early 1970s. Things bottomed out right before Fuente with Larry Porter going 3-21 in two seasons.
- Recruiting your backyard. The talent level in Memphis can compare with some of the most talented cities in the nation. The Tigers rein much of the basketball talent, but lose out on way too much local talent. The current staff is looking to change that with offers to 26 in-state players for 2017.
- Memphis as a city. It is a vibrant city that has a collection of music and food that rivals any other city. There are great places to go, but no one can deny that statistics prove it is among the most dangerous cities in the nation.
Making the case for why Memphis should be lower: Cyrus Smith, Managing Editor, UDD.
Memphis is a top-five basketball job in the AAC but not football. Yes, the Memphis job has become a lot more attractive thanks in large part due to Justin Fuente and FedEx money but I am not a believer. Memphis is still a basketball school at heart and its going to take a few more successful seasons before that changes.
East Carolina and Cincinnati have had much more success on the gridiron, have more passionate fan bases, and they have an on-campus stadium that is in much better shape than the Liberty Bowl. Seeing the Memphis job above those schools is a surprise.
Fan support is crucial at the G5 level and Memphis has never consistently supported the football program like some of the other schools on the list have. Sure, there definitely is talent in the state so recruiting to Memphis is nice but the SEC routinely gobbles up the difference makers that hail from Memphis and other parts of Tennessee.
Fuente was the first successful coach in years to make Memphis relevant. I'm going to need Mike Norvell to do the same before I start entertaining the idea that Memphis is a top-five football job in the AAC.
If you were playing NCAA football in an online dynasty...
You want to use a team that has some talent and build it into a national power. One thing you will always have on the roster is platyers with 90+ in the speed category. You can completely change the offense and defense and have the players to succeed. You want to watch the Liberty Bowl expand and turn the Tigers into a national title contender.
Your eventual goal is to get the SEC to trade Vanderbilt for Memphis, win the SEC, and then win the National Title.
If you choose this job in real life...
You have looked at Justin Fuente and think you can do the same. You realize the pitfalls of coaching this team, but also understand that it can be a successful program on a year to year basis. You also realize that a great job is waiting on the other side if you can find a way to pull out a few winning records.
The talent base is wide open and Memphis kids just need a good reason to stay home. Recruit in state and the southeast and you will bring a lot of talent to the team. You can run an exciting offense and exotic defense if you want, there are really no restrictions that you may face at other programs.
Though it has looked nice recently, this has been a historically tough job that eats up coaches and spits them out. Tommy West, a former head coach that loved the school, resigned because he just did not get the support needed to succeed. Things have changed a bit since then with the success of Fuente and the verbal and potential monetary support of FedEx.
The strides taken by this program in the last few years have been astronomical and it would not surprise me to see Memphis end up in a P5 conference in the upcoming years.