University of Memphis men's basketball coach Josh Pastner didn't have a say in the school's decision to put San Diego State and Boise State on its nonconference schedule beginning in 2013-14 as part of the Tigers' move to the Big East.
But it appears Pastner might get his way when it comes to Memphis' rivalry with Tennessee, a series athletic director R.C. Johnson had been in discussions to extend for four years beyond next season's game in Knoxville.
Pastner has steadfastly objected to continuing the series, which he feels helps Tennessee's recruiting in Memphis.
On Thursday, just more than a month after he told The Commercial Appeal he was negotiating an extension with Tennessee, Johnson said he's leaving the decision on whether to extend the series up to Pastner and the Tigers' next athletic director. Johnson, who announced the Tigers' move to the Big East on Wednesday, is retiring in June.
"Particularly now with the Big East, I think that should be a decision now between Josh and the next athletic director. That's changed a lot now," Johnson said. "We used to worry about our (nonconference) schedule for name and RPI. Now, that's basically been a role reversal. It's not nearly as significant.
"I don't have any influence on whatever the next athletics director decides he or she wants to do. But from a personal standpoint and as an AD, I always felt it was to our advantage. Every coach I worked with didn't want to play them, and I understand that. But the in-state thing I always thought was kind of a special thing."
Pastner reiterated his thoughts on the Tennessee series Thursday after discussing Memphis' addition of San Diego State and Boise State to its nonconference schedule for four years beginning in 2013, with one foe at home and the other away. As part of Memphis' move to the Big East, Johnson said, Big East commissioner John Marinatto asked Memphis to play the two schools, which are joining the league as football-only members in 2013. Johnson said Marinatto told him Connecticut has also agreed to play the two schools.
"I think obviously San Diego State, that name speaks for itself. So it's a really good game. Boise State I think is a very solid program. So there's two tough nonconference games you're playing on top of the (Big East schedule)," Pastner said.
"I do know that the Tennessee series needs to be cut after next year. Whether we're going into the Big East, Conference USA, any other league, we don't need to play that series. No disrespect to (Vols coach) Cuonzo Martin, because I think he's a heck of a person and he's done a great job. This is just strictly about I believe what (former Tigers) Coach (John) Calipari felt about it. There's no need to play it, and I've not wavered on that stance since Day One I got the job.
"So next year is the last year of the contract. I expect and hope that we are done with them in terms of playing them in the nonconference, obviously unless the Big East-SEC Challenge forces you to do that. That'd be out of our control."