Lady Vols decide not to renew contract to face UConn

Updated: June 12, 2007, 12:55 AM ET
Associated Press

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Connecticut and Tennessee, the top two programs in women's college basketball, are ending their annual series, the schools announced Friday.

Connecticut had signed a contract to extend the annual game through the 2008-09 season, but Tennessee declined to extend the series.

"Although the University of Tennessee women's basketball schedule will not be completed and released for at least another month, Tennessee has elected not to renew its series with the University of Connecticut," Tennessee women's athletic director Joan Cronan said in a statement.

"The Lady Vol basketball team will continue to enjoy its rivalry games with teams from the Big East, the ACC, the Big 12, the Pac-10 and other conferences. Year in and year out, we pride ourselves on the strength of schedule we play and our RPI," Cronan said.

When reached by telephone, she declined to comment on reasons for the decision.

"We are disappointed for UConn fans, Tennessee fans and women's basketball fans in general who look forward to this annual event featuring the greatest women's basketball rivalry in the nation, as recently selected by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association," UConn athletic director Jeff Hathaway said in a written statement.

In the first meeting on Jan. 16, 1995, in Storrs, then-upstart Connecticut snatched the No. 1 ranking from the Lady Vols with a 77-66 win. Later that year, Connecticut completed its undefeated season with a victory over Tennessee in the national championship game.

Connecticut leads the series 13-9, although Tennessee won the last three meetings, including a 70-64 win in January that featured a dunk by Tennessee star Candace Parker. Tennessee went on to win the national championship.

The games are always nationally televised and have always featured some of the nation's best players, such as Rebecca Lobo, Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi for Connecticut and Chamique Holdsclaw, Tamika Catchings and Nikki McCray for Tennessee.

Neither coach could immediately be reached for comment. But UConn men's basketball coach Jim Calhoun, serving as a guest sportscaster Friday on WVIT-TV in Connecticut, called it a poor decision.

"Tennessee and UConn clearly, clearly are the best two coaches in women's college basketball and that is the best game every single year," he said. "To give it up over some, I'm sure, small detail is ridiculous. In my opinion, the game should be played every year."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press