Haslam lobbies sports league for Memphis

Gov. Bill Haslam said Friday he contacted Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby and several university presidents in the Power 5 league to speak on behalf of the University of Memphis and its campaign to become an expansion member, reports the Commercial Appeal.

Memphis is among several top candidates seeking one of two – and possibly four – invitations to the league, which is considering adding to its 10-team conference.

U of M president M. David Rudd has been leading the Memphis drive and enlisted Haslam’s help. Haslam said he spoke to presidents on the Big 12’s composition, or expansion, committee.

“Dr. Rudd had called and said we would really like to make this happen, can you help?” Haslam told a reporter from The Tennessean. “I doubt I was a persuasive factor in it, but I tried to help any way I could.”

Haslam briefly discussed his involvement with the Memphis bid following an education event in Nashville. He said if the U of M were to receive an invitation, it would be a “step up.”

Haslam’s comments came on a day an ESPN report revealed the Big 12 will conduct video conferences with representatives from 17 schools that have contacted the league regarding expansion. The U of M is one of the 17 schools that reportedly will be contacted by Bowlsby, who was given instructions last month by the league’s board of directors to “actively evaluate” expansion.

Memphis, BYU, Cincinnati and Houston have emerged as top candidates to join the more lucrative Power 5 league, but South Florida, Central Florida, UConn, Colorado State and Boise State also are campaigning