UConn-Tennessee Rivalry To Return?
By STEVE MEGARGEE, AP Sports Writer
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ Tennessee coach Holly Warlick says she recently approached Connecticut about the possibility of playing each other again.
That doesn’t mean the two women’s college basketball powers will renew their rivalry right away.
Warlick said she mentioned the idea to Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma last month during the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame induction weekend, but she added that the talks haven’t progressed since then.
“I don’t think it’s going to work out,” Warlick told The Associated Press in a wide-ranging interview Monday. “I don’t know. I’ve put it out there. We haven’t discussed it since.”
Connecticut officials confirmed the conversation took place, but the defending national champion Huskies already have a full schedule for the upcoming season. Auriemma has said all along that he would play Tennessee since the rivalry ended in 2007.
The two schools have combined to win 13 of the last 19 NCAA titles. Connecticut has beaten Tennessee in the national championship game four times (1995, 2000, 2003 and 2004). The two teams also have met twice in the NCAA semifinals, with Tennessee winning in 1996 and Connecticut winning in 2002. Tennessee also beat Connecticut in a 1997 regional final. Connecticut won its eighth national title this past season to match Tennessee for the most in NCAA history.
The two powers played each other in the regular season every year from 1995-2007– Connecticut led the all-time series 13-9 _ before former Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt opted to end the series. In her memoir “Sum It Up” that came out this year, Summitt said her relationship with Auriemma had deteriorated at the time and that she had become “increasingly upset with a couple of UConn’s tactics in recruiting.”
But in her book, Summitt also said that she and Auriemma had recovered their friendship and that “we are in the best place we’ve ever been.” After Summitt announced in 2011 that she had been diagnosed with early-onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type, Auriemma donated $10,000 to her foundation.
Auriemma and Warlick hosted a reception together to raise money for the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame before last month’s induction ceremony. At the reception, Warlick congratulated Auriemma on Connecticut’s 2013 national title and gave him a bottle of Volunteer wine _ a Napa Valley-based brand she’d found in a local store _ as well as two wineglasses shaped like Mason jars.
“We understand the rivalry between Tennessee and Connecticut,” Warlick said at the time. “Try to understand that Geno’s a heck of a coach. He’s done a heck of a job. It’s about competition, and it’s about competitiveness. He’s outstanding. I appreciate that, and I understand that.” It was during that weekend that Warlick approached Auriemma about playing again, but she said the two sides haven’t spoken about the possibility since. She didn’t sound optimistic about the rivalry’s future this week and said she didn’t know if another regular-season meeting between the two teams would ever happen. “We’ve got enough rivalries right now that I think we’re going to be OK,” Warlick said.
___ AP Basketball Writer Doug Feinberg contributed to this report.
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