From 1995 through 2007, it was the best rivalry in women's college basketball. More than a decade later the University of Connecticut and University of Tennessee have found each other again.
UConn and Tennessee women's will resume their series beginning in 2019-20, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced Tuesday.
As part of the two-year deal, UConn will host Tennessee during the 2019-20 season with a portion of proceeds benefitting the Pat Summitt Foundation, named after the late legendary Tennessee coach, and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. In the 2020-21 season, the Lady Vols will host the Huskies in Knoxville, with a portion of proceeds again benefitting the Pat Summitt Foundation and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, as well as the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.
Game dates and times will be announced at a later date. The event will be showcased during the annual "We Back Pat" week.
"I am happy to have the Lady Vols back on our schedule and am thrilled that proceeds to our games will benefit such an important endeavor like the Pat Summitt Foundation," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said in a statement. "I know our fans will be excited to renew the rivalry with Tennessee and expect them to fill the building for some good basketball and a great cause."
UConn and Tennessee have played 22 times, including four times for the national championship, with the Huskies holding a 13-9 lead in the series.
Since the Huskies and Lady Vols last met, UConn has overtaken Tennessee for the lead in national championships (11-8) and in Final Four appearances (19-18). The Huskies have made a record 11 consecutive trips to the Final Four while the Lady Vols' last trip was in 2008 when they won their eighth NCAA title.
"We are so excited to join UConn for games that will generate incredible interest for women's basketball and benefit the Pat Summitt Foundation, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame," Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said in a statement. "Basketball fans will be intrigued to watch these two programs meet on the court again, and I know Lady Vols and Huskies fans will be eager to pack arenas, cheer on their teams and make a difference for some very worthy causes, including one bearing the name of my coach, mentor and friend."
Tennessee won the last meeting with UConn 70-64 on Jan. 6, 2007. Later that year, the NCAA launched an investigation into the UConn program after receiving a complaint from the Southeastern Conference. The SEC asked the NCAA to look into an allegation that UConn had arranged an ESPN tour for Maya Moore during an unofficial recruiting visit in 2005 after receiving a complaint from Tennessee. UConn admitted to a secondary violation.
Soon after, Summitt unilaterally ended the series in the summer of 2007. In her memoir "Sum It Up" that came out in 2013, the Hall of Fame coach 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."
Summitt gave gave up her position after the 2011-12 season after announcing in August 2011 that she had been diagnosed three months earlier with early-onset Alzheimer's disease. She was replaced by former Lady Vols player and long-time assistant Warlick. Summitt died on June 28, 2016, at the age of 64.
In April 2014, Auriemma and Warlick told Dan Fleser of the Knoxville News-Sentinel Fleser that they had spoken informally about resuming the series. It was reported in July 2013 that the coaches spoke at that summer's Women's Hall of Fame induction ceremony weekend in Knoxville and that Warlick approached Auriemma. A source told SNYUConn.com then that for UConn to possibly to agree to play, Tennessee has "explaining" to do from Summitt's decision and how its actions put Auriemma, some of his players, and the way he runs his program in a very negative light.
"I asked him if he wanted to play," Warlick told the News-Sentinel. "He said he would if I apologized to his fans, former players, Maya Moore, her mother. I'm not going to do that."
At the 2014 Final Four, Auriemma was asked at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville if an apology was a prerequisite to resuming the series, he replied: "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.'
"Let's put it this way. If it's going to get done, it will get done. But I don't know."
Four years later, it did.