McFerrin enters 11th season with hopes of better record, upgraded facilities

By Published: October 13, 2018 10:30 PM CT

When women’s basketball head coach Melissa McFerrin signed her original contract with the University of Memphis in 2008, she immediately wanted to make changes, particularly to the Elma Roane Fieldhouse.  

Despite those desires, the old gymnasium has gone through the ensuing decade without any updates to the facilities. The place looks similar to the days when the men’s team played there before moving to the Mid-South Coliseum in the mid-1960s.

McFerrin’s “patience” – stretched as it was at times – may soon pay off. Earlier this month, U of M President M. David Rudd released renderings of renovations to the team’s home.  

There is no timetable on the potential upgrades to the Fieldhouse, but McFerrin believes the renovations are needed.  

“I think it’s absolutely 100 percent long overdue,” McFerrin said of the hopes when she joined the program. “The day I signed my contract that was the discussion I had with administration – that facilities have to change in order for us to have a chance to be successful.” 

Since McFerrin’s arrival, the Tigers are 162-154 with four NIT appearances. After finishing in the top tier of Conference USA several times, McFerrin and the Tigers moved to the American Athletic Conference, where they consistently finish in the bottom half of the league.  

Facilities can play a major role in recruiting potential student- athletes, and some of the Tigers’ provisions haven’t reached updated standards. Other AAC teams like Tulane and Rice renovated facilities similar to Elma Roane, while Connecticut, bolstered by its consistent ranking near the top of the polls, has some of the best in women’s basketball.  

“I have to give our kids credit. Over the last 10 years we’ve been able to play at the top of Conference USA and in the middle tier of the American Athletic Conference with facilities that haven’t helped us from a recruiting perspective,” McFerrin said. “I’m really excited about it. I think that’s necessary for us to take the next step. My goal, and the administration’s goal, is to be in the upper tier of our conference.” 

The coach, entering her 11th season at Memphis, says the university is getting the word out about all of its teams, especially women’s teams. She said her team’s visibility in the city has declined.  

Memphis upgraded the men’s program with the unveiling of the $20 million-plus Laurie-Walton Family Basketball Center. Construction recently began on the indoor football practice facility, and the volleyball team took over the space at the Larry O. Finch Center vacated by the men’s basketball team.  

“I’m a huge football and men’s basketball fan, I’ve gotta state that right up front,” McFerrin said. “I don’t begrudge them for anything they have. I feel our players deserve the same, and it’s our university’s obligation to make sure we treat our female student-athletes the same as we treat our male student-athletes.” 

The women’s team averaged fewer than 1,000 fans per game the last four seasons. The Tigers averaged more than 1,000 fans in all but one of the seasons they appeared in the women’s NIT.  

If Memphis rebounds from a 10-20 overall record in the 2017-18 season, McFerrin believes fans will return to the Fieldhouse.  

“When you win, more the fans show up,” McFerrin said. “In the years we were winning 20 or 25 games the fans showed up.” 


Melissa McFerrin Elma Roane Fieldhouse Tiger Basketball American Athletic Conference
Jonah Jordan

Jonah Jordan

Jonah Jordan was born and raised in Memphis, graduated from the University of Memphis and has covered the Memphis Tigers for three years. When he's not writing, he enjoys golfing and eating barbecue.

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