Week 16 NFL rewind:

Jeff Eisenberg

Josh Pastner expects Memphis to leave Conference USA

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Amid the culture of secrecy that has spread through college athletics regarding conference realignment, it was refreshing to hear at least one college coach address his school's future openly.

Memphis coach Josh Pastner told the Commercial Appeal on Wednesday that he can't make too many marquee multi-year non-conference series because he's fearful his schedule will be too difficult if Memphis gets shuffled to a tougher conference in the next year or two.

"We’re moving to another conference eventually based on what R.C. Johnson and Dr. Raines are saying," Pastner said. "We’re going to be moving in one of these things so you can’t get yourself locked in too far in advance."

Left behind in a severely weakened Conference USA when most of its main rivals bolted for the Big East a few years ago, Memphis has made it clear for years it's itching to move to a BCS conference as soon as possible. Its football program has grown stagnant, its basketball program isn't getting the competition or exposure it needs and the TV revenue is far less than it would be elsewhere.

The SEC still appears unlikely, but the good news for Memphis is it should be one of the first schools the Big East would consider adding if the Big Ten plucks Notre Dame, Rutgers or Syracuse in the coming months. Memphis would bring a top-50 TV market, natural rivalries with Louisville and Cincinnati, an elite basketball program and serviceable albeit not especially strong football program.

It's a natural move and a mutually beneficial move. And it's nice that someone directly involved was willing to allude to the likelihood of it happening.

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