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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Tiger Season Gets Hotter With Hoyas

Tiger season gets hotter with Hoyas

By Dan Wolken
June 15, 2007

The University of Memphis added another marquee game to its 2007-08 basketball schedule Thursday by signing a four-year, home-and-home deal with Georgetown beginning Dec. 22 at FedExForum.

To accommodate the schedule shift, Memphis paid $50,000 to buy out of this year's previously scheduled road game at Ole Miss. Then, Memphis agreed to a new two-year series with the Rebels that will begin in Memphis in 2008-09, with the 2009-10 return game in Oxford.

Memphis will play Georgetown four times over the next five years, rekindling a series that was played every season from 1993-1998. And it comes at a time when both programs are at the peak of their powers.
Memphis is the preseason No. 1 or No. 2 team in nearly every national poll, while Georgetown returns most of its Final Four team from last season and could challenge for the No. 1 spot if Jeff Green pulls out of the NBA Draft and returns to school.

Adding Georgetown to a schedule with Tennessee, Gonzaga and Arizona means Memphis could play four of the top 20 teams in the country at home. Plus, Memphis will play USC (another preseason top-25 team) in the Jimmy V. Classic in New York and could face teams like Connecticut and Kentucky in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.

"This is that year where if you don't get season tickets, you're not getting in the building," coach John Calipari said.

Because Memphis had scheduled 31 regular-season games, there was no room when Calipari was presented with the opportunity to play Georgetown.

But in analyzing the benefits of a series with the Hoyas -- revenue from one more home game, a probable spike in season ticket sales, another national television game and the chance to showcase Memphis in the talent-rich Washington, D.C., area -- Calipari determined it was necessary to adjust the schedule.

"The opportunity to get a team like Georgetown in our building this year with the team I have and the fact they'd play us for four seasons when scheduling those kinds of teams, how difficult is that? It's impossible," Calipari said. "So for us to be able to do that, I couldn't pass on it. They wanted to open at our place first, and I know all four will be nationally televised. I told them, if you're willing to go four years, I'll figure out how."

For that part, Memphis turned to Ole Miss, which last fall asked the Tigers to postpone the schools' football series. And because of the dates Memphis had secured, it could switch out the Ole Miss game for Georgetown without moving other non-conference games.

Instead of buying out of the Ole Miss series completely, Memphis offered the opportunity to continue in 2008-09 at FedExForum for a $50,000 guarantee.

"R.C. and I have a great relationship," Ole Miss athletic director Pete Boone said. "And he called me and asked me if there was a way to adjust, rearrange, do something with the game. ... R.C. has been very good to us in the sense of our football contract and trying to work with some of our needs. I told him we'd do everything we could, and then it was a matter of how to do it because finding a replacement game is not easy to do. And we were able to work out all those things."

Meanwhile, Memphis has agreed to a contract with Siena to replace the game Holy Cross dropped out of last month. Siena, which plays in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, finished 20-12 last season and was ranked No. 128 in the Ratings Percentage Index last season.

-- Dan Wolken: 529-2365

Reporter Scott Cacciola contributed to this story.

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