UT-UConn still creates buzz

There was a time when nothing in women's college basketball would get people worked up like Tennessee playing Connecticut. Now nothing is getting people worked up like Tennessee NOT playing Connecticut.

News that the defending national champ Lady Vols have elected to end their annual series with the high-profile Huskies has created all sorts of national buzz. Tennessee coach Pat Summitt has declined comment on the matter but her disdain for UConn counterpart Geno Auriemma is no secret.

With message boards going wild and speculation running rampant, espn.com has gotten into the act. A front-page tease that blares "Has Pat finally had enough of Geno?" links to a column by Mechelle Voepel of the Kansas City Star offering her thoughts on the controversial cessation of the premier rivalry in women's hoops.

Here's a sampling of her prose:

"Some of the Internet chatter has accused UConn of releasing this information right before the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame weekend in Knoxville as a kind of vengeance. But a UConn official explained to me that Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch got a tip about Tennessee's refusal to sign the contract and called UConn about it last Thursday. The UConn athletic department responded Friday, with a statement e-mailed to all media that cover the Huskies.

"So the timing was not UConn's choice. Once it came out, though, Tennessee seemed unprepared for it. Tennessee has long been the standard for media relations when it comes to women's sports, and Summitt – busy as she is – always has been accessible.

"But now the program essentially has gone silent, initially saying it couldn't comment on its schedule until the end of July because of Southeastern Conference regulations. Perhaps recognizing how flimsy a reason that appeared to be considering the circumstances, women's athletic director Joan Cronan released a brief statement. But that didn't actually explain anything.

"For what it's worth, I've let Tennessee know this approach is not what we've come to expect from a great program and that fans of the sport deserve a timely explanation.

"That said, I think Tennessee believes that by not commenting, it is actually saying a lot. An educated guess is that Summitt has had enough of UConn coach Geno Auriemma."

That's probably a good guess. Regardless, recent events suggest that even Pat Summitt has a bad week occasionally. First, she had to withstand considerable criticism for declining comment on the cessation of the UT-UConn series. Then she had to deal with bitter rival Andy Landers of Georgia being inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.

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