The other day, reports came out that Geno Auriemma and Tennessee women's basketball coach Holly Warlick briefly discussed the possibility of reviving the two programs' series while at last month's Women's Basketball Hall of Fame ceremony in Knoxville.
The series ended at the behest of Tennessee legend Pat Summitt, and the two programs have not faced one another since 2007 as a result. Summitt's decision to end the series is said to have been due to frustration over UConn's recruitment of Maya Moore, and to put it bluntly, it was pretty clear that she couldn't stand Auriemma at that point in time.
Now, while Summitt and Auriemma have supposedly mended fences over the past few years (Auriemma reportedly donated $10,000 to Summit's foundation after she was diagnosed with early-onset dementia), things still haven't reached a point where all is good between the two programs. The Hartford Courant's John Altavilla reported the other day that while conversations did take place last month, Warlick won't reschedule UConn out of respect for Summitt's wishes. Whether that's actually true or not remains to be seen, but Warlick herself told the AP that she isn't optimistic, at least not at this point.
"I don't think it's going to work out," Warlick told The Associated Press Monday. "I don't know, I put it out there. We haven't discussed it since."
When the series ended in 2007, UConn led the all-time series 13-9, with a 5-2 edge in the NCAA Tournament and four head-to-head national championship victories. Tennessee did win the last three meetings before Summitt called the series off, and around that time Summitt was on the verge of winning back-to-back national championships, led by All-Everything forward Candace Parker.
Since then, however, quite a bit has changed.
Obviously Summitt is no longer coach at Tennessee, but Warlick has been coaching at Tennessee for 28 years herself so obviously she's no newcomer to the rivalry. Also, when the two teams last played, Tennessee still held a lead in national championships that wound up growing to 8-5 by 2008. That gap has now closed, thanks to the efforts of an incredible well of talent, including Renee Montgomery, Maya Moore, Tina Charles, Stefanie Dolson, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Breanna Stewart. UConn has now reached six Final Fours in a row, winning the national title in three of those years.
Interestingly enough, Tennessee has not been among the nation's elite since Parker departed for the WNBA, and UConn's main adversaries during that stretch of time have been Stanford, Baylor and Notre Dame.
Should UConn and Tennessee resume their series? I mean obviously it would be a lot of fun, these are the two most storied program's in NCAA Women's Basketball History after all. Will they? That's tougher to say. Bad blood seems like a silly reason not to resume the series, but bad blood has a funny way of muddling things up in college athletics.
Either way, it has been six years since UConn and Tennessee last played, and I don't think you can make the case that either program has been hurt by the ending of the series. Both teams still schedule some of the best competition the nation has to offer, both teams still land many of the nation's top recruits and both teams have continued to win.
You'd like to think that eventually the two teams will get matched up in the NCAA Tournament, and when that happens it's going to be awesome, but for now both teams look content to keep going off in their own directions, and this year UConn's may just be another undefeated season.