Memphis Tigers football

Memphis Tigers
2016 Memphis Tigers football team
First season 1912
Athletic director Tom Bowen
Head coach Mike Norvell
1st year, 84 (.667)
Stadium Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium
Year built 1965
Seating capacity 62,380
Field surface Field Turf
Location Memphis, Tennessee
Conference American Athletic Conference
Division West
Past conferences Mississippi Valley
Missouri Valley
All-time record 45550533 (.475)
Bowl record 54 (.556)
Conference titles 5 (1 SIAA, 3 MVC, 1 AAC)
Colors Blue and Gray[1]
Fight song Go Tigers Go
Mascot Pouncer
TOM III (Live tiger)
Marching band Mighty Sound of the South
Rivals Louisville Cardinals
Ole Miss Rebels
Arkansas State Red Wolves
Southern Miss Golden Eagles
Tennessee Volunteers
Cincinnati Bearcats

The Memphis Tigers football team represents the University of Memphis in college football at the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision. The Tigers currently play in the American Athletic Conference as an all-sports member.[2] They play home games at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. Mike Norvell is the head coach, as he was formally introduced on December 4, 2015.[3]

Since their inaugural season in 1912, the Memphis Tigers have won over 450 games and appeared in nine bowl games. The program has also claimed 5 conference championships with the most recent title coming in 2015 as a member of the American Athletic Conference.


Early history (1912–1957)

West Tennessee State Normal School <>(now the University of Memphis) first fielded a football team in 1912.[4] The team was coached by Clyde Wilson.[5]

In 1922, Lester Barnard was the Tigers head coach.[5] His team compiled a 5–2–2 record.[5]

From 1937 to 1938, Allyn McKeen coached the Tigers, compiling a 13–6 record.[5] His 1938 team went undefeated at 10–0.[5] McKeen departed the Tigers after two seasons to accept the head football coach position at Mississippi State and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach in 1991.[6][7]

West Tennessee State Teacher's College changed its name to Memphis State College in 1941.[8]

The Tigers did not field a football team from 1943–1945 due to the events surrounding World War II.

Billy Murphy era (1958–1971)

Billy Murphy served as head football coach for the Tigers for fourteen seasons, compiling a record of 91–44–1.[9][10] Murphy's 1963 team was the school's first undefeated team in twenty-five years, and Murphy was named national coach of the year for the team's successes. The team finished ranked #14 in the UPI Coaches Poll, the highest final ranking in school history.[9][10] Murphy retired after the 1971 season.[9]

Fred Pancoast era (1972–1974)

Fred Pancoast came to Memphis from his post as offensive coordinator at Georgia.[11] In three seasons, he led the Tigers to a 20–12–1 record.[11] Pancoast left the Tigers after the 1974 season to accept the head football coach position at Vanderbilt.[12]

Richard Williamson era (1975−1980)

Richard Williamson, previously offensive coordinator at Arkansas, was hired to take over the Tigers after Pancoast's departure.[13] Williamson's teams finished 7–4 (1975, 1976), 6–5 (1977), 4–7 (1978), 5–6 (1979), and 2–9 (1980).[14][15] Williamson was honored with the Southern Independent Conference Coach of the Year award twice,[13][15] but was fired as head coach of the Tigers after six seasons due to the team's declining performance.

Rex Dockery era (1981–1983)

Coach Dockery

Rex Dockery was hired away from Texas Tech as the Tigers new head coach after Williamson's firing.[16] He had an 8–24–1 record at Memphis State, starting his tenure with back-to-back 1–10 seasons and going 6–4–1 in his final season.[17]

Dockery was killed in a plane crash on December 12, 1983, in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, en route to an appearance before the Quarterback Club there.[16] Also killed in the crash were Memphis State freshman Charles Greenhill, offensive coordinator Chris Faros, and booster Glenn Jones.[16][17][18]

In December 1983, the playing surface at the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium was named Rex Dockery Field.[16]

Rey Dempsey era (1984–1985)

After the tragedy, Rey Dempsey was hired away from Southern Illinois as Memphis State's new head football coach.[19] His teams struggled to find success on the football field, posting a record of 7–12–3 in two seasons[20] before Dempsey was fired.

Charlie Bailey era (1986–1988)

Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Bailey was hired as the new head football coach at Memphis State after Dempsey's firing.[21] He put together a 12–20–1 record in three seasons.[22]

He resigned from Memphis State in 1989 after allegations that two of his athletes lied about contacts with school boosters.[23]

Chuck Stobart era (1990–1994)

USC offensive coordinator Chuck Stobart, a former head coach at Toledo and Utah, was hired the head coach after Bailey's resignation.[24] His teams compiled a 29–36–1 record in his five seasons.[25][26] In his final three seasons, Stobart led the Tigers to winning seasons (three straight 6–5 records).[26] Stobart resigned after five seasons.

Memphis State University changed its name to the University of Memphis in 1994.[4][8]

Rip Scherer era (1995–2000)

Rip Scherer, previously head coach at James Madison, took over as the Tigers head football coach in late 1994.[27] He failed to post a winning record as head coach, going 3–8 (1995), 4–7 (1996-1997), 2–9 (1998), 5–6 (1999) and 4–7 (2000).[28] Scherer was fired due to the mediocrity and on-the-field struggles of the football program.[29]

In November 1996 the Tigers beat sixth-ranked and SEC power Tennessee, quarterbacked by Peyton Manning, 21-17 at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.[30] It was the first time Memphis had defeated the Vols in fifteen meetings, and the Vols came into the game with a 40-1 record in November since 1985.[31] It would take another 19 years for the Tigers to defeat another nationally ranked team.

Tommy West era (2001–2009)

Tommy West, Memphis' defensive coordinator and a former head coach at Clemson, was dubbed to take over the Tigers in late 2000.[32] West's teams had some success, reaching five bowl games in his nine seasons as head coach.[33] West's 2003 team finished 9–4 and won the 2003 New Orleans Bowl.[33] The next year, West's Tigers finished 8–4 and lost in the 2004 GMAC Bowl.[33] In 2005, West's Tigers made a third consecutive bowl appearance, winning the 2005 Motor City Bowl and finishing the season with a 7–5 record.[33] The 2007 Tigers finished 7–6 and lost in the 2007 New Orleans Bowl[33] and in 2008, Memphis finished 6–7 and lost in the 2008 St. Petersburg Bowl.[33] West was fired after a 2–10 season in 2009.[34] At the press conference announcing his firing, West vented his frustration about lack of financial and fan support and said that if the Memphis Athletics Department didn't show more commitment to the football program, the program didn't have "a fighting chance".Template:Memphis Commercial Appeal

Running back DeAngelo Williams set numerous school rushing records[35] and would become as successful running back in the NFL.[36]

Larry Porter era (2010–2011)

Larry Porter was named the new head football coach at the University of Memphis on November 29, 2009 replacing Tommy West.[37][38][39] Porter's Tigers struggled tremendously as fan support, attendance and revenue fell.[40] Porter amassed a 3–21 record as head coach at Memphis.[41]

On November 27, 2011, Porter was fired after completing a 2–10 season with only having won three games during his two-year tenure.[41]

Justin Fuente era (2012–2015)

On December 7, 2011, sources revealed that TCU offensive coordinator Justin Fuente would be named as the new head football coach at the University of Memphis.[42][43] He was formally introduced as the Tigers' head coach on December 8, 2011, as the replacement for former head coach Larry Porter.[3] After the Tigers opened the 2012 season with only one win over their first nine games, Fuente led Memphis on a three-game winning streak to close the season and finish with an overall record of four wins and eight losses (4–8).[44] In February 2013, Memphis extended the length of Fuente's contract through the 2017 season as a result of the gains he made in his first year as head coach of the Tigers.[45]

Fuente's 2013 Tigers team finished the season with a 3–9 record.[46] The 2014 Tigers football program ended the season with a 10–3 record overall (7–1 conference),[47] making them the co-champions in the AAC (American) Conference. This was the first conference championship for the Memphis Tigers since the 1971 Missouri Valley Conference championship and the second 10 win season since 1938. The Tigers finished the season ranked #25 in the AP Poll and the USA Today poll. Coach Fuente won his first ever bowl game as a head coach that year as Memphis defeated BYU 55-48 in double overtime in the inaugural Miami Beach Bowl.[48]

On October 17, 2015, Memphis, led by quarterback Paxton Lynch upset the #13 Ole Miss Rebels 37–24 at the Liberty Bowl, catapulting the team into the national spotlight. The victory was the Tigers' first over a ranked team since 1996, when they defeated #6 Tennessee. The 6–0 Tigers entered the AP Poll the following day at #18 having been ranked in the Coaches Poll for the previous two weeks. On November 3, 2015, an undefeated (8–0) Memphis team was ranked #13 in the season's first College Football Playoff poll, the highest ranking of any non-Power Five team in the poll's history and the highest national ranking in Memphis football history.[49] In April 2016, Lynch was selected by the Denver Broncos in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft with the 26th overall selection.

On November 29th, 2015 Justin Fuente departed Memphis to become head coach of the Virginia Tech Hokies.

Mike Norvell era (2015–present)

On December 4, 2015 Mike Norvell, formerly offensive coordinator for the Arizona State Sun Devils, was introduced as the new head football coach of the University of Memphis. [50]


When the University of Memphis first fielded a football team in the fall of 1912, no one had selected a nickname for the squad. Early references to the football team tabbed them only as the Blue and Gray Warriors of West Tennessee Normal School. After the final game of the 1914 season, there was a student parade. During this event, several Normal students shouted, "We fight like Tigers." The nickname was born. More and more the nickname "Tigers" was used, particularly in campus publications. But it did not catch on with the newspapers downtown. They continued to use "Normals" or the "Blue and Gray" when referring to the University. In the late 1920s, student publications and downtown newspapers began referring to the football team as the "Teachers" or "Tutors." The Tiger nickname would return, but not until 1939 was it finally adopted as the official nickname for the University of Memphis.[51]

School colors

The University of Memphis' official school colors of Blue and Gray were selected in the early 1900s. The colors were chosen in an effort to show unity in a nation that was still recovering from the effects of the Civil War. The student body thought that by picking the colors of the North and the South, the school would show a togetherness among all students.[52]

Current staff

Name Position
Mike Norvell Head Coach
Darrell Dickey Assistant Head Coach/Running Backs Coach
Chris Ball Defensive Coordinator/Safeties Coach
David Johnson Wide Receivers Coach
Marcus Woodson Cornerbacks Coach
Joe Lorig Special Teams Coordinator/Outside Linebackers Coach
Kenny Dillingham Quarterbacks Coach
Dan Lanning Recruiting Coordinator/Inside Linebackers Coach
Ryan Silverfield Offensive Line Coach
Paul Randolph Defensive Line Coach
Chip Long Offensive Coordinator/Tight Ends Coach
George Pugh Director of Player Personnel
Brennan Ball GA/ Safeties Coach
Jeff Kupper Director of Football Operations
Spencer Knight Special Teams Intern
Nick Gilbert GA/ Offensive Line
Sherman Morris Recruiting Director
David Blake


Memphis home games have been played at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium[53] since 1965. Prior to that, home games were played at Crump Stadium.

Retired jerseys

Retired jerseys
Player Number Position
Charles Greenhill 8 DB
DeAngelo Williams 20 RB
Dave Casinelli 30 RB
Isaac Bruce 83 WR



Name of rivalry Rival First meeting Last meeting Overall record
Black and Blue Bowl Southern Miss Golden Eagles 1935 2012 Southern Miss Leads 40–22–1
No Name Cincinnati Bearcats 1966 2016 Memphis Leads 21-13
No Name Ole Miss Rebels 1921 2016 Ole Miss Leads 49–11–2
Battle For The Bones UAB Blazers 1997 2012 UAB Leads 9-5
Memphis–Louisville rivalry Louisville Cardinals 1948 2013 Louisville Leads 24–19
Paint Bucket Bowl Arkansas State Red Wolves 1914 2013 Memphis Leads 30-23-5

[54] [55]

Bowl games

The Memphis Tigers currently hold a record of 5–4 in bowl games. The Burley Bowl was not an NCAA sanctioned Division I FBS bowl game. The Pasadena Bowl matched the California Junior College football champions against the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA).

Bowl game history
Date Bowl Opponent Result Score
November 22, 1956 Burley Bowl East Tennessee State W 32–12
December 18, 1971 1971 Pasadena Bowl San Jose State W 28–9
December 16, 2003 2003 New Orleans Bowl North Texas W 27–17
December 22, 2004 2004 GMAC Bowl Bowling Green L 52–35
December 26, 2005 2005 Motor City Bowl Akron W 38–31
December 21, 2007 2007 New Orleans Bowl Florida Atlantic L 44–27
December 20, 2008 2008 St. Petersburg Bowl South Florida L 41–14
December 22, 2014 2014 Miami Beach Bowl BYU W 55–48
December 30, 2015 2015 Birmingham Bowl Auburn L 31-10

Future non-conference opponents

Announced schedules as of December 17, 2015

2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
vs Bowling Green vs Southern Illinois Georgia State vs Ole Miss vs UTSA vs Mississippi State at Mississippi State
vs Kansas vs UCLA vs South Alabama at South Alabama at UTSA
at Ole Miss vs ULM at Missouri at ULM
vs Southeast Missouri State at Georgia State



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External links

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