Mike Norvell, meanwhile, believes in Memphis.
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Norvell is the 36-year-old second-year head coach of the Tigers. Two years ago, he was just the baby-faced guy replacing Justin Fuente who may need a few years to return Memphis to competitiveness, let alone AAC contention. He had other ideas, going 8-5 last year and tying the program record for wins (10) this year (with two games remaining).
Athletics director Tom Bowen confirmed on Saturday, hours before their 57-point demolition of East Carolina, that they were working on a contract extension for Norvell, his second in less than a year. The first extension, announced in the spring, added one year (now signed through 2021) to the deal he signed in December 2015 after arriving from his offensive coordinator job at Arizona State.
"I've always believed in Memphis and our program," Norvell told HERO Sports this week, "the progression of where this football team has come from and where I believe we can continue to elevate to is remarkable."
Just six years ago, Memphis was days removed from a third straight season with two or fewer wins, a stretch that featured 12 total wins over five seasons (2009-13). Justin Fuente built the program into a conference champion before leaving for Virginia Tech in 2015. Norvell kept them at the top, and he has no plans to leave.
"When I made the decision to come here, I believed that it was going to be a great fit for myself [and] my family," he said, calling it an area he felt comfortable in after attending Central Arkansas, 150 miles west of Memphis. "…It's been an incredible transition. When we first got here, we talked about trying to take the next step to continue to show the success of Memphis Tiger football.
"And this year we wanted to continue with that progress and that's something that winning 10 games for only the second time in school history to win our first divisional championship. Those are things that really point to not only where we are but where we believe we can go."
Norvell — whose team plays UCF on Saturday in Orlando for the AAC Championship — also notes their success in recruiting. They've already signed the two highest-rated classes (247Sports) in the program history and are battling Power Five programs for three- and four-star prospects in the 2018 and 2019 classes.
While Bowen did not disclose the length of a potential contract extension, it's a safe bet he'll try to lock up Mike Norvell for as long as possible and hang onto the bright, young offensive mind as long as possible.