Tennessee and Connecticut haven’t played a women’s basketball game since Jan. 6, 2007. They haven’t met for the national championship in 10 years.
Yet some memories were revisited amid the celebration following UConn’s 79-58 victory over Notre Dame at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena. The Huskies’ ninth national championship broke a tie with Tennessee for the most in women’s history. Tennessee head coach emeritus Pat Summitt issued a congratulatory statement. UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey recalled the early years of playing UT as formative in nature.
Presently, the two programs only share a storied past. But at least there’s been talk about a possible future.
UConn coach Geno Auriemma and Tennessee coach Holly Warlick both said this week that they have spoken informally about resuming the series.
“We’ll see where it goes,” Auriemma said Tuesday night.
The going will require something more substantial than the casual conversation that took place last June when Auriemma visited Knoxville for the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony. The series ended in acrimonious fashion after UT filed with the SEC office more than 30 pages of complaints regarding Connecticut’s recruiting during a five-month period in 2006. Although the name was redacted in the documents, there was an apparent reference to then-top recruit Maya Moore’s visit to ESPN. The network reported that Tennessee lodged a complaint over the private tour the Huskies women’s basketball office helped arrange for Moore and her mother, Kathryn.
Warlick said on Monday that Auriemma indicated during their conversation last June that he wanted an apology first before resuming the series.
“I asked him if he wanted to play,” Warlick said. “He said he would if I apologized to his fans, former players, Maya Moore, her mother. I’m not going to do that.”
When asked Tuesday if an apology was a prerequisite, Auriemma said: “I want to make sure that we set the record straight. I think there were a lot of hard feelings for a lot of people when all that stuff happened. It is water under the bridge in some ways, you know. I think we’re past it. But you also can’t be ‘hey, don’t worry about it.’ “
He then added: “Let’s put it this way, if it’s going to get done, it will get done. But I don’t know. I haven’t talked to them in a while.”
Both programs could benefit from playing each other. After finishing 40-0 and winning their second consecutive championship, UConn is the measuring stick for Tennessee and all other programs.
Lady Vol Bashaara Graves stated her ambitions on Twitter on Tuesday night by saying: “You can believe it or not we coming. I’m not leaving here without at least one Naty.”
Seeing was believing how dominant the Huskies could be. What began as a battle of unbeatens with Notre Dame unraveled into a rout that featured a 52-22 UConn edge in paint points and a 54-31 domination of the boards.
Connecticut, on the other hand, needs a strong non-conference schedule to offset playing in the American Athletic Conference. Even with UConn, Realtimerpi.com ranked the league sixth in RPI this season. To make matters worse, the conference is losing Louisville, which reached the Elite Eight, and Rutgers, which won the WNIT.
Regarding the chances of Connecticut and Tennessee playing again, Auriemma offered the following as a closing comment: “Reasonable people will figure out a way to get it done, probably.”