When both school's teams in both football and basketball aren't even in the top25 for years, it's not a rivalry. It's just two schools who play each other. So, really, who cares?
Memphis likes playing Tennessee in football for financial reasons, but they don’t like playing the Vols in basketball (because it gives UT a recruiting foothold in the Bluff City).
With Memphis joining the Big East, the two cross-state schools may finally be axing their relationship. Tiger hoops coach Josh Pastner wants to kill the series and further build a wall around Memphis. He also wants to avoid playing Arkansas in Memphis. Why let nearby schools woo his local talent?
In the past, UT has told the Memphians that if they continue to want to get nice paydays from Vol football games, they would have to keep scheduling the Vols in hoops. For that reason, Memphis AD RC Johnson has always kept both series alive. But Johnson is now stepping down and the Tigers are entering a BCS-level — read: more monied — conference. So he’s tune is changing:
“Particularly now with the Big East, I think that should be a decision now between Josh and the next athletic director. That’s changed a lot now. We used to worry about our (nonconference) schedule for name and RPI. Now, that’s basically been a role reversal. It’s not nearly as significant.
I don’t have any influence on whatever the next athletics director decides he or she wants to do. But from a personal standpoint and as an AD, I always felt it was to our advantage. Every coach I worked with didn’t want to play them, and I understand that. But the in-state thing I always thought was kind of a special thing.”
Pastner’s take is written in stone:
“I do know that the Tennessee series needs to be cut after next year. Whether we’re going into the Big East, Conference USA, any other league, we don’t need to play that series. No disrespect to Cuonzo Martin, because I think he’s a heck of a person and he’s done a great job. This is just strictly about I believe what (former Tigers) Coach (John) Calipari felt about it. There’s no need to play it, and I’ve not wavered on that stance since Day One I got the job.
So next year is the last year of the contract. I expect and hope that we are done with them in terms of playing them in the nonconference, obviously unless the Big East-SEC Challenge forces you to do that. That’d be out of our control.”
Calipari actually suggested the game be played in Nashville each year as part of a “Governor’s Cup” type series. Anything to keep the Vols out of Memphis. Pastner wants the rivalry dead, period.
And if he gets his wish, new Tennessee AD Dave Hart should scratch Memphis from his list of potential non-conference opponents for his football Vols.