The UConn and Tennessee women's basketball programs, participants in a storied 22-game rivalry that has been dormant since 2007, will meet again in 2020 and 2021.
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame brokered the deal between the programs, with part of the proceeds from the games going to the Pat Summitt Foundation. Summitt, Tennessee's legendary coach, who won a record 1,098 games, died in 2016 from early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type.
The date of the first game, at Connecticut, is Jan. 23, 2020, which will be during "We Back Pat" week. The second game will be at Tennessee in 2021. The games will be televised on ESPN networks.
"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."
UConn (11) and Tennessee (eight) have the most NCAA titles in women's basketball. The Huskies have been to the Final Four 19 times, and Tennessee 18 times. UConn has reached the Final Four every year since 2008, which was Tennessee's last appearance.
"I am happy to have the Lady Vols back on our schedule," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said in a statement, "and am thrilled that proceeds to our games will benefit such an important endeavor like the Pat Summitt Foundation. 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."
The programs first met on Jan. 16, 1995, at Storrs, Connecticut. The game was such a big event, the Associated Press delayed its normal poll voting a day to accommodate that game. UConn won 77-66 and claimed No. 1 the rest of the season, finishing undefeated with its first NCAA title. The Huskies defeated Tennessee 70-64 in the championship game that year in Minneapolis.
Hey @LadyVol_Hoops 👋— UConn Women's Hoops (@UConnWBB) August 14, 2018
Oh, nothing. We were just thinking ... remember how much fun we used to have together? pic.twitter.com/Wb7dULLRTz— UConn Women's Hoops (@UConnWBB) August 14, 2018
UConn leads the overall series 13-9, including 5-2 in NCAA tournament meetings and 4-0 in the NCAA final (1995, 2000, 2003, 2004). The largest margin of victory between the two was UConn's 23-point win in the 2002 national semifinals; the Huskies finished that season unbeaten behind future WNBA stars Sue Bird, Swin Cash and Diana Taurasi.
Ten of the matchups were decided by six points or less, including three by one point. During 1999-2000 and 2000-01, the Huskies and Lady Vols met twice during the regular season, giving both teams a home game.
Tennessee won the last three games of the series before Summitt decided in 2007 not to continue it. Summitt wasn't happy with some of Auriemma's verbal jabs during the series, and the programs also were at odds over the recruitment of Maya Moore, who played for UConn from 2007 to 2011.
In later years, the relationship between Summitt and Auriemma seemed to improve somewhat. Auriemma was an early donor to Summitt's foundation, and the two shared a hug at the 2012 Final Four in Denver. Summitt, who had made her diagnosis public in August 2011, stepped down as head coach shortly after the 2011-12 season, and moved to an emeritus role.
She was replaced by longtime assistant Warlick, who played at Tennessee from 1976-80 and has coached there since 1985. Warlick recently had her contract extended through 2022.
Auriemma has 1,027 career victories, all at UConn, where he took over in 1985. He has had six perfect seasons, with the Huskies going on winning streaks of 111 and 90 games.
"The Basketball Hall of Fame is proud to celebrate all levels of the game for both men and women," said John L. Doleva, president and CEO of the Naismith Hall of Fame. "When it comes to women's college hoops, there's no matchup more highly anticipated than that of UConn vs. Tennessee. We're so proud to unite these teams in a contest benefitting great causes and honoring the late Hall of Famer Pat Summitt."