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Cutting to the Chase: Memphis the Menace
Since joining Conference USA in 1995, and a becoming a Division 1 NCAA program, UAB has acquired a number of rivals both in, and out of conference in every sport that we compete. But no rival has been a bigger menace than Memphis. The irony of the rivalry is that Head Coach Gene Bartow, before becoming the “father of UAB athletics” in 1978, was actually head coach at Memphis for several years cultivating a powerhouse that would later become one of the Blazers biggest threats to NCAA tournament play.
Memphis and UAB first met in basketball somewhere around 1984 and in an instant the rivalry was born. The Blazers and Tigers have played in and out of different conferences over the years and both finally joined Conference USA in 1995 during a time when both teams were seeing a lot of success and tournament appearances with each team (in various years) making it to the sweet sixteen, elite eight and even a few final four appearances for the Tigers.
The Blazers and Tigers have met a total of 45 times in basketball with Memphis owning the record at 35-10. Now that Memphis is finally leaving Conference USA for the Big East, maybe we will have a chance to win a few more conference games across the board in each athletic department.
We’ve owned the record in football, playing Division 1 football since 1997, UAB has met Memphis 15 times and owns 10 of the Battle of the Bones titles.
Typically our Men’s soccer team can hold their own, but against Memphis, it’s always hit or miss from season to season. Sometimes we dominate a match from start to finish doing all the right things and at other times they have upset us, including just this last season when we lost our last game of the regular season to the Tigers 3-1 at West Campus field.
Memphis isn’t alone in their decision. There have been several teams to make the decision to leave Conference USA over the past year including Central Florida, Houston, and even SMU.
Memphis has been trying to leave Conference USA for a number of years and will have to pay the hefty exit fee for next season ($500,000) in addition to any revenue from TV contracts which could total in the millions.
Again, that’s good news for Memphis, their basketball program will be able to compete and flourish while their other sports learn to play at a higher level.
But it’s great news for UAB; it means we should see an improvement in our winning percentage in every athletic department. Even with the addition of several new teams to Conference USA, none of them will have the same effect on our teams mentally that Memphis has over the years. There are some who would like to see this series continue even though the Tigers are leaving the conference but I am not one of them. I think we have a lot of work to do and we have to focus on what we have to work with and build upon that foundation. Conference USA is a great conference with many great teams and with Memphis leaving it will give UAB an opportunity to move to a more prominent position within Conference USA. What we can do is take a lesson from a school whose athletic department isn’t much older than our own and mimic their ability to attract great assistant coaches, great players who can sell their team and great fans.
UAB’s athletic department was coach Bartow’s dream; let each of us do our part to make sure it continues to flourish.
Senior Staff Writer