Before a Tennessee spokesman told the Courant Tuesday night the Lady Vols will not consider a resumption of its series with UConn, Geno Auriemma said he was willing to discuss a new regular-season series between the two national powerhouses, as soon as the 2013-14 regular season.
Tuesday morning, before assuming his duties at the “Fore The Children” golf tournament at the Hartford Golf Club, which benefits the Connecticut Children’s Hospital to the tune of about $100,000 annual, Auriemma confirmed he iwas open to the idea.
“It wasn’t any fun anymore, regardless of whether we won or lost,” Auriemma said of series. “Maybe down the road, when it can get back to UConn vs. Tennessee (as opposed to Pat vs. Geno) it will make more sense. We look forward to playing them in the sense that they would just be another good team on our schedule.
Both sides admitedt there has yet to be a formal proposal made. But for the first time since the summer of 2007, when the series ended, it appeared there was hope for a resumption.
“When people ask me about it, I tell them I haven’t had a conversation with anyone at Tennessee about it,” Auriemma said. “It will happen the way it always does; an event organizer believes Connecticut-Tennessee would be a great way to make money. That hasn’t happened, as far as I know.”
Apparently upset with Auriemma about a number of things, especially relating to the recruitment of Maya Moore, Summitt suspended what had become perhaps the most famous and intense rivalry in the sport prior to Moore’s freshman season, 2007-08.
The schools had played 22 times since UConn’s famous victory over Tennessee at Gampel Pavilion on Jan. 16, 1995. UConn won 13 of the games, including four national national championship games (1995, 2000, 2003 and 2004). But Tennessee had won the final three games prior to the end of the series.
Summitt and her son, Tyler, founded the Pat Summitt Foundation last year, an organization dedicated to raising awareness of the disease and funds to help fight it. One of the first major contributors to the organization was Auriemma.
A major impetus for the teams to play again lied in the game being staged to benefit the charity, perhaps just one, perhaps perennially, depending on how things went and what variety of ideas were forwarded by both schools and interested networks.
“If that’s a part of it, well, that’s a good way to get it started again,” Auriemma said. “If they can find the right setting, the right time, create something that would make enough of an impact to help things, I am all for it. But it’s like I’ve said in the past, as long as it’s not going to be about Geno and Pat, and being asked all the questions about the past, then it sounds like a good idea. Eliminate all the other stuff and I think it’s a great idea.”
A number of ground root efforts have been launched to raise money for the Foundation, the most notable the pledge of Kara Lawson, the former Tennessee guard, to donate $50 to the organization for every three-point short she makes this season. Her WNBA team, the Connecticut Sun, have agreed to match the sum.
There are nine other Tennessee players in the WNBA and Lawson said last week she hoped her effort would inspire others to do the same to come to Summitt’s assistance.
The staging of another UConn-Tennessee game, to benefit the foundation, was considered a commonsense and important step in the movement. And ESPN, the national cable home of women’s basketball and its Final Four, would welcome its return.
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