Josh is talking like someone who's a little worried about his programs direction? Tiger high has to play tenn or other sec teams each year, strickly for football scheduling alone...with the uncertainty of the big east memphs can't play austin pea every saturday in the glorious liberty bowl!
Memphis coach Josh Pastner has put himself front and center this week by repeatedly stating that he would kill off the Memphis-Tennessee basketball series after the two teams meet tonight in Knoxville. No surprise. He’s been saying for the past couple of years that he doesn’t want Arkansas, Mississippi State, Ole Miss or Tennessee coming into his city, playing basketball, and possibly wooing a recruit or two while there.
A few of Pastner’s quotes regarding the Tigers-Vols series:
1. “The facts are, this will be the last year of the series unless we play them in the postseason. Now obviously, if any of my bosses want to play them, that’s… Me, as the head coach, the series is over, the contract is over, let’s move on.”
2. “We will not play Tennessee anymore as long as I’m the head coach and I’m doing my scheduling.”
3. “The contract’s ending, we have a new athletic director and he and I are on the same page with it.”
Three strikes, you’re out.
Someone might need to get a spatula to help Pastner get the egg off of his face. As it turns out, Memphis AD Tom Bowen said yesterday — one day after Pastner’s Quote #3 above — that he and UT athletic director Dave Hart are still discussing a continuation of the series.
Bowen told The Memphis Commercial Appeal, “We are re-evaluating everything.” He added: “The Tennessee game is important. They’d come to our place next. So there’s an advantage there.”
Pastner’s response when The Commercial Appeal caught up with him about the apparent flip-flop: “I’d rather you call Tom Bowen on that.”
Pastner also said “there’s no doors shut and no door open” regarding the Tennessee series, but who really knows what that means? If it’s not open or shut, is there really a door at all? Or are there multiple doors?
Bowen said that the shaky situation in the Big East is causing scheduling issues for his Tigers. He also claims the “primary focus” of the current talks with Tennessee has been about basketball. “We expect future discussions to include other sports as well.”
As we noted when we first mentioned this story earlier this week, the Vol athletic department has traditionally kept its Memphis basketball rivalry alive by threatening never to play the Tigers in football if they back out in hoops. Knowing that, you do the math on the whole “We expect future discussions to include other sports as well” comment.
While there’s a possibility that Pastner agreed to play the stooge in order to give Memphis more leverage in its discussions with UT, it’s doubtful a guy would go as far out on a limb as he did… knowing it was about to be sawed off. Even if he was ordered to do so by his boss. And Pastner made it very clear the Tennessee series was d-e-a-d.
It’s much more likely that Pastner doesn’t truly control 100% of Memphis’ basketball scheduling. Which means there might be an opening for Arkansas, Mississippi State or Ole Miss to sneak past his watch and into Memphis, too. Granted, those schools won’t have the in-state political pressure to exert that the University of Tennessee has, but Pastner’s say is obviously not the final one. Therefore his desire to not let area SEC teams into his city might not mean as much as everyone — himself included — once thought.
CORRECTION — We should have noted that Memphis’ AD had already agreed to schedule Ole Miss once there is an opening for both schools. That’s further proof that Pastner doesn’t have the final say on Tiger scheduling. One thing should be very clear by now: If Arkansas or Mississippi State want to get on Memphis’ schedule they should dial up Bowen, not Pastner.