There runs through all the chatter about conference realignment and conference expansion one untidy thread which no one seems to have been able to tie off: the question of exactly what criteria conferences should be looking at when they decide which of their coevals to cannibalize. Oh sure, we've all talked around some of the same things. Geography seems to have some importance, academic standards are a consideration, media markets are perhaps underappreciated as a motivator, and some amorphas notion of "cultural fit" seems to be cropping up fairly regularly.
But no one seems to really have a formula for applying these things. So I have an idea. How about we just go with the decision calculus put forward by Memphis Athletic Director R.C. Johnson. Johnson thinks Memphis should be in the SEC because they "deserve" it. No really. In an interview with Action News 5 in Memphis (which I assume he got to in his stunning university-owned LOL-icoptor), Johnson said:
"We want to try to get ourselves in the best possible place. Ultimately we would like to be in the SEC. That's where we think we belong geographically. We think we deserve to be."
Now I'm not here to say Memphis doesn't deserve to be in the SEC. I'm not some kind of bloodthirsty dream-crusher. Instead, I'd like to focus on some of the other things that Memphis deserves, besides SEC membership.
- NCAA probation for its basketball team. Oh wait, they already got that. How about . . .
- A collective swift kick in the cajones for every Memphis fan who ever argued with a straight face that John Calipari runs a clean basketball program. By the way, if things keep going the way they're going on the gridiron, I think we can substitute in "Kentucky fan" there when talking about what the Wildcats need to do to stay in the SEC.
- A full house and a rock and roll band, pens that don't run out of ink, and cool quiet and time to think. Oh, and passionate kisses . . . from you.
- Fewer crappy barbecue joints. Memphis has at least 19 exceptional barbecue restaurants, which is probably more than any other metro area on earth. It also has 3,275 which serve overpriced crap to yankees who don't know any better. Somebody should do something about this, because it gives the rest of southern barbecue a bad rap.
- A demilitarized zone to separate it from Arkansas. That place is way too close for comfort.
- Autonomy from the rest of the state of Tennessee. In my travels to Memphis it seemed that Ole Miss fans outnumber Volunteer supporters 2:1 anyway. It's one of the things I find charming about the city.
- A better showing than the Georgia Bulldogs put up in the most recent Liberty Bowl. Our bad, Memphians. Looking back we really have no good excuse for that one. Thank goodness R.C. Johnson didn't realize his school's entitlement back in February, or the league might have voted us out in favor of yet another set of Tigers.
Of course if we admit Memphis along with Tulane we would have a monopoly on mid-sized universities in river towns with other-worldly food, great music scenes, stunningly high historic crime rates, and systemic poverty problems. I don't know if Mike Slive's incorprated any of that into his big board yet, but I'm sure he will. While he's doing that, feel free to comment on the other stuff that you think the University of Memphis deserves. Don't be bashful, just step right up to the mike. This is a safe space. Until we all get what we have coming . . .