Memphis has received the largest donation in school history and the money is set for stadium renovations.
The school announced Tuesday that the Smith family had donated $50 million toward the remodeling of Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium. The gift is from Fred Smith’s family foundation. Fred Smith, the father of Atlanta Falcons coach Arthur Smith, is the founder of FedEx. The company is based in Memphis.
"The upgrade and modernization of this community's two most important sports venues, FedExForum and the Liberty Bowl, is of paramount importance to the future of FedEx's headquarters city," a statement from the Smith family said. "In the same vein, increasing the attractiveness of Memphis as an entertainment destination around FedExForum and the Liberty Bowl both is essential for economic growth and increased employment. Tourism is our second largest industry after logistics, and this will help to drive additional activity and development here in our home city. We strongly believe Memphis' future is tied to their success."
The City of Memphis also announced Tuesday that a resolution had been introduced by councilman Chase Carlisle to allocate $120 million in state funds toward a stadium renovation. The resolution would also include an ownership transfer to the University of Memphis. The stadium, which also hosts the Liberty Bowl, is currently owned by the City of Memphis.
In a city statement, Mayor Jim Strickland made it clear that stadium renovations were being made with the goal of getting Memphis into a Power Five conference.
"As a Tiger fan and UofM graduate, I could not be happier that we are able to make this happen," Strickland said. "With these renovations, the stadium will receive much needed upgrades, and this puts the University in an excellent position as they continue to work towards entrance into a Power Five conference."
The school said that detailed plans for stadium renovations would be announced at a later date.
Memphis is currently 8-3 ahead of its final game of the regular season at Temple. The school has been a part of the American Athletic Conference since moving from Conference USA at the end of the 2012 season. The school was passed over by the Big 12 a year ago in favor of other now former AAC schools UCF, Houston and Cincinnati when the conference added four teams to replace Texas and Oklahoma after they announced their departures to the SEC.