Memphis athletic director R.C. Johnson wants to keep playing Tennessee

MEMPHIS - R.C. Johnson is well aware that University of Memphis basketball coach Josh Pastner doesn’t want to play Tennessee because he thinks it helps the Vols recruit in Memphis. In that alone, he understands.

But to Johnson, the U of M athletic director, it’s a big-picture situation.

“The coaches don’t particularly want any formidable opponent coming in here to play, but I think, and our position really has been, that the Tennessee game is an in-state rivalry that’s so big that we really want to do that,” Johnson said Tuesday.

The issue flared up Monday afternoon when Pastner, appearing on Knoxville radio station WNML-AM, said he has “no desire to play Tennessee.”

“I don’t think it does us any good,” Pastner told the station. “I’m just being honest with you. For us, it’s a game that, I don’t know why we play it, but we play it because the athletic director wants me to play it and he’s my boss and what he says goes.”

Reached later by The Commercial Appeal, Pastner stressed that he understood why fans enjoyed the game and said he simply doesn’t like giving a team exposure in his team’s natural recruiting territory. Johnson said Pastner called him Monday night and told him he understood the department’s overall approach.

Johnson said he believes there are four more games scheduled against the Vols in basketball and one more in football (in 2017). He said he and former Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton had advanced discussions about playing more football games in the next decade and extending the basketball series from its current terminus. But Hamilton resigned in June and Tennessee is searching for a new athletic director.

Johnson recalled a survey of fans he did when taking the Memphis AD job 15 years ago. An important topic? Playing Tennessee.

To that end, any discussion about playing other regional teams like Ole Miss in future football schedules is waiting until the Tigers nail down just how much their schedules in the 2020s will include the Vols. It’s an in-state rivalry that Johnson is committed to preserving.

“I agree wholeheartedly that we don’t want to help anybody in recruiting,” Johnson said, “but I think this game is an exception.”

© 2011 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Topics

Comments » 16

ChrisUTvol writes:

They are helping The University of Tennessee recruit??????????

Prostar writes:

I may be wrong but I don't remember us doing all that well with Memphis recruits when we do get them. Wasn't Daniel Brooks from Memphis, he didn't do anything. The WR that went to Georgia a couple of years ago still hasn't developed. The guard that CBP signed has to go the JUCO route and the latest Memphis phenom is off to Oak Hill Academy and will be a one-and-done. I just don't see Memphis as a hot-bed for us anyway. I'd rather draw from the Atlanta area, they're closer than Memphis will a lot more talent.

stevefrommemphis writes:

That game in 2017 would be a good time to drop Memphis from football. If Tennessee is going to play an in-state team other than Vandy, make it MTSU. I told those people in 1996 that Memphis would never beat Tennessee again in football, and they never will.

Col26ca writes:

in response to Prostar:

I may be wrong but I don't remember us doing all that well with Memphis recruits when we do get them. Wasn't Daniel Brooks from Memphis, he didn't do anything. The WR that went to Georgia a couple of years ago still hasn't developed. The guard that CBP signed has to go the JUCO route and the latest Memphis phenom is off to Oak Hill Academy and will be a one-and-done. I just don't see Memphis as a hot-bed for us anyway. I'd rather draw from the Atlanta area, they're closer than Memphis will a lot more talent.

Brooks (the football player) was from Jackson and we have done well in West TN outside of Memphis. Both the Football and Basketball games played in Memphis are really important both from the fan and the recuitment issues as they may be the only time many West Tn people get to see UT in person. Got to keep playing them. I grew up in Western Ky and my parents being UK people would drive to Ole Miss and Miss State in the 50's to see UK play basketball as it was closer than Lexington and they could get tickets. Sort of the same situation with UT / Memphis State.

CrankE writes:

"The coaches don’t particularly want any formidable opponent coming in here to play."

Precisely. Memphis wants to make the big time, but not to actually play any of those teams in Memphis.

Here's the question, if Memphis wasn't this alleged hotbed of recruiting, would UT offer them a home-home series at all? Would anybody else?

Playing Memphis seems to be a lose-lose situation for UT. How often does UT actually gain anything on the field/court by playing them? Off the field, the lure of Memphis as a "recruiting hotbed" is like Lucy Van Pelt to hold and Charlie Brown to kick. It never seems to pan out.

Drop UM. Period.

CR_Vol writes:

Drop theses losers from the schedule in both sports. Make them more irrelevant than they already are if that is even possible.

tennrich1 writes:

Why are we still discussing this? Playing Memphis does absolutely NOTHING for our program IMO. Drop this series and add either another Big East or ACC opponent. We should not be spending a lot of time and money 450 miles to our west recruiting kids that really don't pan out for us normally....

Chris4Vols22 writes:

in response to Prostar:

I may be wrong but I don't remember us doing all that well with Memphis recruits when we do get them. Wasn't Daniel Brooks from Memphis, he didn't do anything. The WR that went to Georgia a couple of years ago still hasn't developed. The guard that CBP signed has to go the JUCO route and the latest Memphis phenom is off to Oak Hill Academy and will be a one-and-done. I just don't see Memphis as a hot-bed for us anyway. I'd rather draw from the Atlanta area, they're closer than Memphis will a lot more talent.

Chris Jones is a great PG, but he's nowhere near one-and-done.

Chris4Vols22 writes:

He had to take the JUCO route because he can't academically qualify for any NCAA school.

NeylandWest writes:

in response to stevefrommemphis:

That game in 2017 would be a good time to drop Memphis from football. If Tennessee is going to play an in-state team other than Vandy, make it MTSU. I told those people in 1996 that Memphis would never beat Tennessee again in football, and they never will.

Memphis didn't beat TN that year. The refs did. That guy was down and any Memphis fan with decent vision knows it.

Pompey writes:

....."tiger high's" basketball coach is right, but any change must also include football and baseball as well. A major college program should never play "tiger high"....ever!

CoverOrange writes:

in response to Whatthehellsgoingonoutthere:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Was it in braille or scratch-n-sniff? JK

Volunatic writes:

in response to NeylandWest:

Memphis didn't beat TN that year. The refs did. That guy was down and any Memphis fan with decent vision knows it.

Unfortunately, the Vandy fan in the zebra outfit decided not to blow the whistle.

Chris4Vols22 writes:

The Memphis returner stayed on his feet. Look it up on YouTube and see for yourself.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Chris4Vols22:

Chris Jones is a great PG, but he's nowhere near one-and-done.

You misread Prostar's post. He said, "The guard that CBP signed [i.e., Chris Jones] has to go the JUCO route AND [emphasis added] the latest Memphis phenom [who would be star post player Jarnell Stokes] is off to Oak Hill Academy...."

mocsandvolsfan writes:

Willie White was from Memphis. I know he was a UTC player! His team was one point shy of beating Maryland and going to the Sweet Sixteen. Or was it elite eight? I forget.
BTW Willie played some good game in Denver until he uhhgot out of shape?!!

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Features