Following Saturday’s emphatic 37-24 win over No. 13 Ole Miss, the University of Memphis was officially dubbed a “football school” by various media pundits and fans whom, for years, had become accustomed to developing a rooting interest in the tradition-rich basketball program.
Among those who’s mostly intrigued by such a notion is former Tiger defensive back Jarvis Greer.
Greer, who played for what was known at the time as Memphis State in the late 1970’s, is currently the sports director for WMC-TV, an NBC affiliate for which he’s worked for more than 35 years.
While his news gathering responsibilities call for him to become mostly dispassionate and fair, Greer admittedly was “ecstatic” while sitting in the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium press box as he witnessed the Tigers erase an early 14-0 deficit and outscore the high-octane Rebels 37-10 the rest of the way.
As a result, Memphis (6-0), which plays at Tulsa (3-3) Friday night at 7 CST, extended its undefeated streak to 13 consecutive wins dating back to last season.
“This is a great time to be a Tiger, because not only is the team performing well on the field, but the administration is putting money in the program with new facilities for the athletes,” said Greer, alluding to the U of M’s plans to erect an indoor practice facility, weight room, and medical services, among other things. “(The football program) is getting the fan base excited because they are pushing hard for inclusion in the Power 5.”
By definition, the Power Five conferences are generally regarded as having the best college football teams in the country.
Because of the success of several teams in the American Athletic Conference, it’s safe to assume this league is making strong case that it is among the nation’s elite.
That’s because Memphis and Temple captured spots in The Associated Press Top 25 for the first time this season, joining Houston to give the American three ranked teams for the first time in the conference’s three years of existence.
So remarkable was the Tigers’ win against Ole Miss that the Tigers moved five spots up to No. 18 in the Associated Press Top 25, their highest ranking in school history.
Saturday’s nationally-televised triumph seemingly has been the talk of the town, considering many Memphians had taken to various message boards and social media sites to express their newfound admiration for a U of M program that has suffered decades of futility before a mostly empty stadium.
That certainly wasn’t the case in the Tigers’ latest outing as announced 60,241 attendees watched in wonderment a football program whose greatest milestone heading into Saturday’s contest was a 21-17 upset of nationally-ranked Tennessee in November 1996.
Even that year, the hapless Tigers limped to a 4-7 finish.
To the delight of this basketball-crazed Bluff City, though, Tiger football is now in rare form, something this city has never seen.
“Incredible coaching job,” said Greer, when asked what this milestone says about the job Memphis coach Justin Fuente has done. “He’s very heady and calm in his approach, but no nonsense on results. Players know exactly where they stand and exactly what they need to do to play. Plus, he’s a good evaluator of talent and can see potential in players other schools might pass on.”
Now at the midway point of the season and owners of the nation’s third-longest winning streak, talks have now surfaced as to whether the Tigers can run the table with an undefeated campaign.
Surely, it will take some doing. Three of Memphis’ final six regular-season outings are on the road, including consecutive games at nationally-ranked foes Houston (Nov. 14) and Temple (Nov. 21).
“Why not,” said Greer, when asked could the Tigers go undefeated. “They’ve got a tough road ahead. But the American is turning into a power conference in its own right. They’ve got three teams ranked in the AP and the Tigers are one of them. As for this writing about the American is 7-7 against the Power Five conferences and 10-1 against the group of 5, that sounds like a power conference to me.”
Among the reasons is that Tiger football is now in rare form, something Memphians have never seen.
Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. A 2000 graduate of the University of Memphis School of Journalism, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division from Dallas, Texas. To reach Johnson, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.