Memphis athletic director Laird Veatch said the schools have been in contact for months over what to do with the game. If Missouri withdraws, the school owes Memphis a $250,000 cancellation penalty.
Memphis would be left with just 11 games on its 2023 schedule, so the Tigers are scrambling to find a backup opponent for a possible opening date. They added Bethune-Cookman for their home opener to replace North Texas, which joins the AAC and could become a conference game for Memphis.
Most schools are not available to schedule a game on short notice, as schedules are set years in advance. That said, there are a few options for Memphis to consider. Here are the schools that currently have less than a full 2023 schedule and share a Sept. 23 open date with the Tigers, according to the FBSchedules.com website.
The Bears have a non-conference opening for 2023. The Tigers are already used to traveling to Texas for recruiting and for American Athletic Conference games. This could work even if the teams have never faced each other.
That would give Memphis a Power Five opponent that would add juice to the schedule. Baylor have been a Top 25 team for the past two seasons and would likely bring a ranked team to Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium. The only problem: Would the Bears even care to talk with Memphis?
Memphis and Georgia Tech met three times between 1980 and 1982, with the Yellow Jackets winning twice. The Tigers have also recruited more from Georgia under coach Ryan Silverfield with six players signed in the past two cycles and four current commitments.
This could be a game that opens communication with the ACC given that the conference realignment remains the elephant in the sport. However, Georgia Tech may have other pressing concerns after firing coach Geoff Collins and athletic director Todd Stansbury.
Pitt has an AAC opponent on his 2023 schedule in Cincinnati. Memphis could try to give the Panthers a second AAC opponent. Just like Baylor, Memphis and Pitt have never played.
Similar to the Georgia Tech scenario, the Tigers could use this game to make inroads with the ACC in hopes of a conference realignment. Pitt is buzzing as the 2021 ACC champion, and Memphis could promote three former players — Arthur Maulet, Calvin Austin III and Anthony Miller — currently with the Steelers. It’s another longshot, but why not?
Coastal Carolina has been among the most successful five-man programs since the start of the 2020 season. The Chanticleers have consecutive 11-win seasons and are 4-0 to start this season.
The Tigers may not want to help a rising program, but it would be an attractive game. Coastal Carolina has a potent offense that could remind Tigers fans of their 2017-19 days, and Memphis could be gearing up to show the Chanticleers why the Tigers were once the hot program in the Five-Ninth Group.
Yes, Memphis is already facing a Mountain West team in 2023 with Boise State. Why not do two with BYU? There’s also history here with the two schools meeting in the 2014 Miami Beach Bowl, where Memphis won in two overtimes.
The Tigers don’t usually travel too far west for games, but desperate times mean all options are on the table. This game would be just as appealing to fans as Boise State, given that BYU and Memphis have been among the most successful Five Eyes programs.
It only makes sense for one reason: FIU coach Mike MacIntyre was the Tigers’ defensive coordinator in 2020-21.
The buildup would be great as Silverfield and MacIntyre would likely speak well of their time together in Memphis. As for the game? FIU have only won two games since the end of the 2019 season, and one of them came this season. So if the Tigers want a favorable game, that’s an option.
Jackson State is a wild card and could escalate some issues between the school and the Southern Heritage Classic. JSU remains embroiled in a lawsuit regarding its decision to exit the game in 2023 and 2024 due to seeking a larger payout from the event. Summit Management Corp, which owns and operates the game, then sued JSU, as well as the Southwestern Athletic Conference, for breach of contract.
As messy as it is, Memphis isn’t involved in this. If they’re desperate, they’ll notice that JSU draws a large crowd to Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium. They will see the buzz from coach Deion Sanders and could entice him with a better payment to return to the city. It might be worth it even though JSU might be a tougher opponent than expected.