The University of Memphis is a public American research university located in Memphis, Tennessee. Known originally as West Tennessee State Normal School, the institution opened its doors September 10, 1912. A number of minor name changes occurred between 1912 and 1941, with the West Tennessee State name remaining at the forefront of each. In 1941, the name of the university changed, becoming Memphis State College. In 1957, Memphis State College became Memphis State University. In 1994, MSU became the University of Memphis.
The university has an undergraduate enrollment of 15,000.
The Memphis Tigers basketball team represents the University of Memphis. Women's teams and athletes at the University of Memphis are known as "Lady Tigers." School colors are blue and gray.
The men's basketball team plays home games at the FedEx Forum in the southern part of downtown Memphis. Capacity is 18,165.
The predecessor of the University of Memphis, West Tennessee State Normal School, first fielded a basketball team in 1920. Zach Curlin, who remains the third-winningest coach in Tiger history, began coaching the team in 1924. The Tigers joined the Mississippi Valley Conference in 1928. The team played its early home games at a local high school gym, a local YMCA, and in a room on campus called the "Normal Cage" which allowed only six inches from the court lines to the walls. In 1929 Memorial Gym, a $100,000 facility built on campus became the Tigers' home.
Curlin's last season coaching the Tigers was in 1948, by which time the school had been renamed Memphis State College. His successor was McCoy Tarry. In 1951, the new $700,000 Field House gym was opened for Tiger home games. In 1952, John Wallisa became the first Memphis State player to be drafted by the NBA. Forest Arnold became the school's first All-American in 1954. The Tigers made the NCAA tournament for the first time in 1955 under coach Eugene Lambert. Bob Vanatta became the team's coach in 1956 and took the Tigers to the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) final. Win Wilfong became the team's second All-American in 1957.
In 1962, Dean Ehlers took over coaching duties. The Tigers began playing their home games at the Mid-South Coliseum in 1964. Moe Iba became the team's coach in 1966, the same year the team joined the Missouri Valley Conference.
Larry Finch played in his first game as a Tiger in 1970, the same year that Gene Bartow took over as head coach. The Tigers won the Missouri Valley Conference titles in 1971 and 1973. During the 1972-73 season, All-American Finch led the Tigers to the NCAA tournament championship game, which the Tigers lost to John Wooden's UCLA Bruins. Bartow also won the NABC National Coach of the Year award that season. Wayne Yates took over for Bartow in 1974. The Tigers left the Missouri Valley Conference to become one of the inaugural members of the Metro Conference in 1976.
Dana Kirk became head coach in 1979. During the 1980s, the Tigers made seven NCAA tournaments and won multiple Metro Conference titles. Keith Lee began playing for the Tigers in 1982, and Memphis was ranked number one in both major national polls for the first time the same year. Lee eventually led the team to its second final four appearance in 1985. Former player Larry Finch took over head coaching duties in 1986. One of Finch's first recruits, Elliot Perry, began playing for the team in 1987. In the 1988-89 season, the Tigers set a school record by starting the season 24-0.
In the early 1990s, Anfernee Hardaway and David Vaughn began their careers at Memphis. Other notable Memphis players from the 90s include Cedric Henderson, Michael Wilson and Lorenzen Wright. The 1991-92 season marked a number of changes for the Tigers. The team left the Metro Conference to become part of the Great Midwest Conference and left the Coliseum to make the Pyramid Arena its new home. On February 6, 1993, the school achieved its 1,000 all-time basketball victory. Memphis joined Conference USA in 1995, one year after the school adopted its current name of the University of Memphis. Finch stepped down as head coach in 1997 and Tic Price took over thereafter.
John Calipari was named Memphis' head coach in 2000. Under his leadership, the Tigers won the 2002 National Invitation Tournament (NIT) championship then made the NCAA tournament in 2003 and 2004 after the school had failed to do so for several years. The Tigers left the Pyramid to play home games in the FedExForum in 2004. The 2005-06 Tigers were led by Darius Washington, Shawne Williams and Rodney Carney and set a school record by going 30-3 during the regular season that was capped by a Conference USA championship. In the 2006 NCAA tournament, the Tigers received a number-one seed, and they advanced to the Elite Eight before falling to eventual tournament runner-up UCLA.
Despite losing their top three scorers from the prior season to the NBA and graduation, the 2006-07 Tigers duplicated the previous year's regular season record of 30-3 and again won the Conference USA championship, going undefeated in conference play. The Tigers earned a number-two seed in the 2007 NCAA tournament. The Tigers defeated North Texas in the first round, Nevada in the second round, and squeaked past Texas A&M, 65-64, in the Sweet Sixteen. They finally succumbed to #1 seeded Ohio State in the South Regional finals, losing 92-76.
The Memphis Tigers made a run at the national title in 2008 before being defeated by eventual champions Kansas.Led by Chris Douglas-Roberts,Joey Dorsey,and this years number one overall NBA draft selection Derrick Rose the Tigers tore into the NCAA tournament defeating Texas-Arlington 87-63,then struggled to defeat Mississippi State 77-74.After the Bulldogs brought them back to earth,the Tigers continued their journey by defeating Drew Neitzel and the Michigan State Spartans 92-74.After defeating Michigan State it was on to tangle with Texas whom they defeated 85-67 which would cattapult them into the Final Four to face Kevin Love and Aaron Afflalo of the UCLA Bruins of whom they also steadily defeated 78-63. Memphis was on the verge of winning their first ever title,but were derailed after Mario Chalmers' last second 3 pointer took the game to overtime and time ran out on Memphis as well losing 75-68 in overtime.