Tennessee-UConn series to end

One of the most storied rivals in women's college basketball has ended with the Friday announcement that Tennessee-Connecticut will not play during the regular season.

The Connecticut Athletic Department issued a press release Friday that Tennessee had decided not to renew the series. The release touched off a flurry of news stories – the series has been the premier matchup in women's college basketball for the past 12 years – but little explanation as to why the series was ending.

"After sending a contract signed by the University of Connecticut to the University of Tennessee earlier this year for the next two games of our women's basketball series (2007-08 and 2008-09), we were notified by their athletic administration that the Tennessee women's basketball program would not be signing this contract and has made the decision to terminate the series between our institutions," said UConn Director of Athletics Jeff Hathaway.

"We are disappointed for UConn fans, Tennessee fans and women's basketball fans in general who look forward to this annual event featuring the greatest women's basketball rivalry in the nation, as recently selected by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association."

Tennessee declined to specify why the series ended and cited SEC rules that prohibited the school from discussing its schedule and TV contracts until they were finalized by the league.

"Although the University of Tennessee women's basketball schedule will not be completed and released for at least another month, Tennessee has elected not to renew its series with the University of Connecticut," Tennessee Women's Athletics Director Joan Cronan said in a statement.

"The Lady Vol basketball team will continue to enjoy its rivalry games with teams from the Big East, the ACC, the Big 12, the Pac-10, and other conferences. Year-in and year-out, we pride ourselves on the strength of schedule we play and our RPI."

The news also touched off a flurry of message board posts among fans of both programs who wanted answers to why Tennessee opted to end the series. Speculation was rampant from the strained relationship between the two coaches, Summitt and Geno Auriemma, to the pitched battles for recruits, including Maya Moore, who signed with UConn, and Elena DelleDonne, who has not yet selected a school.

UConn also announced that it would replace Tennessee on the schedule with LSU.

"We are pleased to maintain our outstanding relationship with the Southeastern Conference as we will be playing two of their member institutions during each of the next two seasons," Hathaway said. "We have finalized a two-game extension with LSU, a 2007 NCAA Final Four participant. In addition, earlier this year we signed a two-year contract with South Carolina."

Tennessee's schedule is not finalized yet – it is typically late July or August before it is released – and Summitt indicated to the local media that she would not discuss the schedule at this time because of league rules.

ESPN had wanted to schedule the game in February as part of its on-campus Game Day promotion for college basketball, a new venture this season. The UT-UConn game typically was played in early January, and it was not yet known if the later date created scheduling issues for Tennessee.

Cronan told a local television station that Tennessee was ready to pursue other avenues at this time but could not elaborate.


Inside Tennessee Top Stories