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C-USA and Memphis: Another Awkward Breakup?

Memphis Tigers fans will have to travel to see sights like this in their team's final C-USA Tournament appearance.
Memphis Tigers fans will have to travel to see sights like this in their team's final C-USA Tournament appearance.

Conference-USA announced this week that they will be moving the conference tournament from its originally scheduled location of the FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tenn., to the BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla. for both the men's and women's basketball tournaments this coming off-season.

Is this another punitive measure, like the Colonial trying to punish Virginia Commonwealth with a post-season ban? It's possible. As the news says, the event was originally scheduled for Memphis, and the only thing that has changed in the interim is that the Tigers decided to leave for the Big East after this coming season.

On the other hand, Tulsa did just host the tournament in 2010 (after five consecutive years on Memphis' campus), and conference commissioner Britton Banowsky said that the conference decided on a rotate-the-host format since it would have more beneficiaries than the same location every year.

Here is what I do know - attendance figures (for games where I could easily find attendance numbers, which is not all):

Year Site ANMA AMA
2012 Memphis 8952 14631
2011 UTEP 8326 9450
2010 Tulsa 7022 ?
2009 Memphis 10652 14058
2008 Memphis 11200 14071
2007 Memphis 11767 15468
2006 Memphis 11000 16607
2005 Memphis 7327 10500

ANMA - Average Non-Memphis Attendance

AMA -Average Memphis Attendance

Again, this is the best data I could quickly cobble, and the '06-'09 attendance is only for the Tigers' title game appearance. Plus, the conference composition has shifted a bit over this time period, but there are clear trends. First, the Tigers have drawn better than the rest of the conference regardless of location. Second, there appears to have been a drop-off when the conference switched locations that may well have had influence beyond location itself - as evidenced by the 50% attendance growth without a site change in '03, or the 35% drop after '09 (that didn't fully recover with a switch back to Memphis this past spring).

So it may be true that the conference, in losing Memphis, is trying to get a one year head start on the attendance woes it will feel when the Tigers leave. But it certainly is a convenient cover up for the fact that you just so happened to take back the honor of hosting the conference tournament from the team who decided to leave your conference after the season.