Empty seats causing problems for Memphis Tigers

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — University of Memphis cheerleaders put on their usual happy faces, despite the alarming number of empty Fedex Forum seats staring back at them.

"Of course we notice when we're running out to a thousand people," Tigers Forward Alex Moffat said.

Tubby Smith, head basketball coach at The University of Memphis, is also concerned about the empty seats.

"There's a lot that goes into why attendance is down. It may not be just the players. It may be other things that are involved," Coach Smith said.

But it doesn't take Price-Waterhouse to figure that the empty seats will affect the University's bottom line in a major way.

That's because The University of Memphis is receiving a sizable check from the Memphis Grizzlies as a part of a FedEx Forum lease agreement.

"In that contract, The University has agreed that if it doesn't achieve at least 9,000 in attendance per game, then it doesn't receive the revenue," Harold Byrd, president of the University of Memphis Rebounders, said.

No one with The University of Memphis or the Memphis Grizzlies was available for comment on exactly how much the university could lose because of poor attendance.

But long-time supporter Harold Byrd says it would be substantial.

"When you get past, I think it's around $360,000 or so, that's a lot of money," he said.

While the players pledge to continue giving it their all, Memphis fans always demand a lot more.

"The fans are not so eager to attend if the games are not, you know, good. I mean they are good and exciting games, but you have to get a W," resident Kenny Lackey said.