The University of Memphis has begun our 100th year--our Centennial Celebration. It is always an exciting time of year on our campus as students, faculty and staff renew ourmost important charge of teaching and graduating the next generation of dreamers, thinkers and doers.
Another exciting part of the University's culture is the beginning of the fall season of athletic competitions as our student athletes strive to excel in the classroom and on the playing field. I know that many of you are aware of conference realignments and a number of universities that are changing to different conferences. This letter gives me an opportunity to update you on what Athletics Director R. C. Johnson and I are doing to assure that our students-athletes, fans, friends and the Memphis community have an exciting experience in an exciting conference for years to come.
First of all, we are talking with other university presidents. At the end of the day, university presidents and chancellors are the key to every conference organization. They cast the deciding vote on admission of membership to their conference. We continue to engage commissioners, athletic directors, consultants and many corporate supporters in these efforts. Over the past several years, I have served on the NCAA executive committee, which consists of chancellors and presidents from universities representing BCS and NCAA member schools. R. C. Johnson continues to serve with other athletics directorsand commissioners on NCAA committees, and Associate Athletics Director, Lynn Parkes has served on a number of NCAAboards and committees, too.
Over the last several years, we have done a better job of aligning our standards for student athletes with the expectations of BCS schools. Our student athletes finished the spring semester with an overall 3.0 grade point average, the highest average in the past 50 years. It is very important to university presidents that we emphasize the "student" in student-athletes. Our men's and women's athletics programs continue to reach high achievements in NCAA tournaments as well as the classroom.
Other factors include the investment that many of you, our friends, have made in facilities. In the last few years, we have upgraded our football practice facilities, a turf field, weight room,football recruiting room, and have begun a campaign to build a $10 million indoor practice facility for football as part of our Empowering the Dream comprehensive campaign for the Centennial. The Liberty Bowl Stadium has had on-going updates and the new tailgating area, Tiger Lane, continues to get rave reviews from our fans as well as our opponents. We have upgraded other facilities as well--FedEx Park for baseball; Frank Flautt Golf Center; women's softball; Elma Roane Field House; the Finch Center for men's basketball; the newly opened Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway Hall of Fame; and we play basketball in one of the premiere facilities in college basketball, the FedEx Forum.
And finally, one of the factors that is critical to all conferences is the television market. Memphis, with more than a million viewers, is a plus for any conference. When we talk to consultants, other athletic directors and our corporate friends in the Memphis area, they all believe that the Memphis television market is a very good advantage for our University. And, strong fan support and attendance at athletic events is a point of review for all conferences.
I want you all to know that we are not sitting by and waiting for "our turn" to come. We have been aggressive behind the scenes, contacting chancellors and presidents, and working very closely with commissioners and athletic directors so that they know what we have done, what we continue to do to improve and how interested we are in reaching the our goal of joining a BCS conference. We know we have improvements to make. Football success is critical. The investments that you and we are making there will pay off. Your commitment and support now is critical to all of our students. I appreciate your trust as we continue to move ahead and position our University for the future.
Shirley C. Raines, President