In-state mid-majors missing from Vols' schedule for first time since 1988

Tennessee assistant coach Tracy Webster, center, talks with head coach Cuonzo Martin, right, while assistant coach Jon Harris, left, looks on during the game against ETSU at Thompson-Boling Arena Friday, Dec. 23, 2011.  Tennessee won 66-63 over ETSU.  (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Photo by Adam Brimer, copyright © 2011

Tennessee assistant coach Tracy Webster, center, talks with head coach Cuonzo Martin, right, while assistant coach Jon Harris, left, looks on during the game against ETSU at Thompson-Boling Arena Friday, Dec. 23, 2011. Tennessee won 66-63 over ETSU. (ADAM BRIMER/NEWS SENTINEL)

Tennessee against in-state opponents in men’s basketball during the past 10 years. All games at home unless indicated.

2011-12

Team Result

Memphis (Maui Classic) L

Austin Peay L

ETSU W

Chattanooga W

At Memphis L

MTSU (NIT) L

2010-11

Chattanooga W

Belmont (Preseason NIT) W

MTSU W

Belmont W

UT Martin W

Memphis W

2009-10

Austin Peay W

ETSU W

At MTSU (Sun Belt Classic) W

At Memphis W

2008-09

Chattanooga W

UT Martin W

At MTSU W

Belmont W

Memphis L

2007-08

MTSU W

At Chattanooga W

2006-07

MTSU W

Memphis W

Tennessee Tech W

ETSU W

2005-06

ETSU W

Lipscomb W

2004-2005

Chattanooga L

Belmont W

2003-2004

Tennessee State W

Tennessee Tech W

2002-2003

UT Martin W

Like its high-major brethren, Tennessee men's basketball annually populates the periphery of its non-conference schedule with a mixed bag of low-to-mid-major programs.

In most cases, the Vols pay teams tens of thousands of dollars for an unabashed public flogging at Thompson-Boling Arena. They're called "buy-games."

Buy-game: Team A signs a contract to host Team B in a game it's not supposed to win. Team B receives X amount of dollars in return.

On 23 occasions over the past 10 years, in-state schools have come to Knoxville for games and an accompanying check from big brother (2010-11 preseason NIT versus Belmont and 2011-12 postseason NIT versus Middle Tennessee State not included). Tennessee has lost just twice, to Austin Peay in last December's debacle and in 2004-05 against Chattanooga.

This year, for the first time since 1987-88, Tennessee won't host an in-state opponent not named Memphis.

The 2012-13 periphery is populated by Presbyterian, Western Carolina, Kennesaw State and Oakland (not a buy-game, but a 2-for-1 home and away deal).

"It just happened and we didn't end up playing (in-state schools)," said UT director of basketball operations Houston Fancher, the behind-the-scenes architect of the schedule. "We reached out to them first, but things just didn't work out."

The foundation of Tennessee's 2012-13 non-conference schedule is built on home games against Xavier, Wichita State and Memphis, road games at Georgetown and Virginia, and three games at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.

Familiar faces, though, will be few and far between.

The last 10 years brought four regular-season home games against Chattanooga and East Tennessee State, three against each MTSU and UT Martin, and a spattering of appearances from Austin Peay, Belmont, Lipscomb, Tennessee State and Tennessee Tech.

The 2011-12 season saw scheduling contracts expire with both MTSU and Chattanooga. Neither has been renewed, and multi-game contracts with any low-to-mid major are all but off the table, but Fancher said single buy-games games with in-state foes (again, Memphis is an exception here) will be revisited down the road.

In future negotiations, though, the wad of money on the offering table might look slightly lower to little brother.

According to ETSU athletic director Dave Mullins, the previous two-game contract between Tennessee and ETSU was worth $145,000. It broke down to $80,000 for a 2009-10 game and $65,000 for last season's meeting.

Mullins said his program asks $85,000-$95,000 for a buy-game.

Likewise, Chattanooga coach John Shulman, whose four-game contract with UT expired last season, said that ETSU's range mirrors the Mocs' asking price.

Those sums are not being doled out by Tennessee. According to Fancher, the Vols' buy-game payout varies by circumstance but typically falls between $65,000 and $80,000.

"We still pay what we need to pay," Fancher said, "and the games we're getting are high quality."

Despite the financial gulf, Murry Bartow, the 10th-year coach at ETSU, said his program will revisit games with the Vols.

"This year the dates didn't work out," Bartow said. "We'd definitely like to do it in the future. Hopefully we can continue to play."

Belmont, the state's most successful mid-major in recent history, last played Tennessee in the 2010-11 season, when the programs met twice at Thompson-Boling. Coach Rick Byrd said the two schools haven't been in contact since.

"That doesn't mean it couldn't down the road, but we haven't really talked to them and they haven't come to us," Byrd said.

Mullins added that he'd like to see some alterations to any future agreement that brings the Buccaneers to Knoxville.

"It may be important for the large state university to play in-state rivals, but if it's good for them it still has to be good for us," Mullins said. "Frankly our ticket agreement is not very agreeable for our fanbase. I get it. It's their home game and they're selling the tickets. That said, though, our fans who are making the drive would prefer not to be in the top of the balcony."

Along with every other director of basketball operations in the country, Fancher is already working on UT's 2013-14 schedule. There will be road games at Wichita State and Xavier, a home game against Virginia, a home date in the Big East/SEC Challenge, if it still exists, and one or two other marquee games.

The periphery, meanwhile, may fall outside the state borders.

Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at http://twitter.com/BFQuinn

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Comments » 32

Huttdawg100 writes:

Just keep the Memphis game going. As a matter of fact, we should play Memphis twice a year. The atmosphere is electric, win or lose, and I always enjoy the back and forth ribbing with the locals here in Memphis. Beale Street was hopping last year, and Vol fans were still out and about, despite taking a loss. Ita great for the community. I just wish Paster was as "hate-able" as Cal is. It's EXTREMELY fun, and I love it. It's great for the community.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

Sorry Mr. Byrd! But balconies aren't so bad for the money UT brings you... PLUS IF WE DON'T GET YOU THE MONEY WE DO GET YOU A RESUME' BUILDER GAME!
However UTC which is in the same system would like a raise. We(UTC for purposes of this post) have to recruit the same state as the mighty Volunteers...Not easy for the Mocs. It turned out ok when UT gave us Coleman but he's gone now.
Sorry. I think I might have been whining.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to Huttdawg100:

Just keep the Memphis game going. As a matter of fact, we should play Memphis twice a year. The atmosphere is electric, win or lose, and I always enjoy the back and forth ribbing with the locals here in Memphis. Beale Street was hopping last year, and Vol fans were still out and about, despite taking a loss. Ita great for the community. I just wish Paster was as "hate-able" as Cal is. It's EXTREMELY fun, and I love it. It's great for the community.

Aw don't worry. There's plenty hate for Blue Cats around the state of Tennessee. Pastner? I think the hate for him comes from Memphis?

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

Uhhh,don't care if we play MTSU,Belmont,APSU,UTM or Memphis..First of all we lost to 3 out 5 and they want more coin..Not happening.

HarveyDent writes:

We need to keep the Memphis series going. The others not so much.

We always need to maintain a presence in Memphis. Actually our record against Tiger High is something like 14-9. Kinda surprising considering history.

Also, I thought Tiger High wanted to cancel this series because they get that butt beat more often than not and it helps us recruit.

chuckfromwoodberry writes:

Don't play any of these mutts. They need us, we don't need them.

WetumpkaThumpa writes:

Dave Mullins from ETSU shouldn't be taken seriously. LOL

WetumpkaThumpa writes:

P.S. Brendan, if you want credible sources regarding college athletics do not call ETSU. The Bucs played an entire baseball season at a new "stadium" that had no stands, because the ETSU AD couldn't finish a project slated for completion in 2010. The AD blamed it on rain, but they really ran out of money. The Bucs home arena is falling apart as well, meanwhile they have a brand new soccer stadium since that's America's favorite sport.

AtopTheHill06 writes:

in response to HarveyDent:

We need to keep the Memphis series going. The others not so much.

We always need to maintain a presence in Memphis. Actually our record against Tiger High is something like 14-9. Kinda surprising considering history.

Also, I thought Tiger High wanted to cancel this series because they get that butt beat more often than not and it helps us recruit.

Pastner is ending the series when the tigers move to the BE conf. He is afraid the Vols will get recruits outta Memphis. His words not mine. And he might be right but it just makes tiger high look like a bunch of scared little girls.

AlexAndersonAAradio writes:

What's really going on here is Cuonzo doesn't want to help teams that he's got to recruit against.

secondcreek writes:

I miss Bruce Pearl and his willingness to take on in-state teams (besides Memphis and Vandy) despite the obvious downside risks if they lost.

jhayes0926#638474 writes:

I would guess it has to do with budget savings. This is similar to all the lay-offs we have seen at UT. Pay-off games add up in the long run.

WetumpkaThumpa writes:

in response to AlexAndersonAAradio:

What's really going on here is Cuonzo doesn't want to help teams that he's got to recruit against.

Yes, Coach Martin is scared to recruit against Belmont. He's worried that a kid may choose the Ohio Valley Conference over the SEC's second place team last season, Tennessee. The same Tennessee team that beat SEC Champ Vanderbilt and Defending National Champ UCONN.

farmdog (Inactive) writes:

in response to WetumpkaThumpa:

Dave Mullins from ETSU shouldn't be taken seriously. LOL

Neither should that idiot from Chattanooga, Shulman. He'll be gone after this year anyway.

keepitreal4vols writes:

Tell that guy from ETSU that we will pull back the black curtain in the upper deck next time, so their fans can see.

RockyToptoNeyland writes:

kennesaw state??? dang thats where I go to school....still cheering for the vols though, that should be a cakewalk considering they only won 3 games last year lol

wmh92264#529898 writes:

Why do we play teams like Presbyterian, Kennesaw State, Western Carolina? I guess since our non-conference football schedule is almost entirely junior high school caliber opponents, the basketball schedule is trying to do the same.

stevefrommemphis writes:

in response to wmh92264#529898:

Why do we play teams like Presbyterian, Kennesaw State, Western Carolina? I guess since our non-conference football schedule is almost entirely junior high school caliber opponents, the basketball schedule is trying to do the same.

Very true. They should have shamed Kentucky into agreeing to play a second non-conference game in December. Playing Kentucky only once per year is disgraceful.

stevefrommemphis writes:

in response to mocsandvolsfan:

Sorry Mr. Byrd! But balconies aren't so bad for the money UT brings you... PLUS IF WE DON'T GET YOU THE MONEY WE DO GET YOU A RESUME' BUILDER GAME!
However UTC which is in the same system would like a raise. We(UTC for purposes of this post) have to recruit the same state as the mighty Volunteers...Not easy for the Mocs. It turned out ok when UT gave us Coleman but he's gone now.
Sorry. I think I might have been whining.

It was not Belmont complaining about the balconies, but rather ETSU.

stevefrommemphis writes:

in response to Huttdawg100:

Just keep the Memphis game going. As a matter of fact, we should play Memphis twice a year. The atmosphere is electric, win or lose, and I always enjoy the back and forth ribbing with the locals here in Memphis. Beale Street was hopping last year, and Vol fans were still out and about, despite taking a loss. Ita great for the community. I just wish Paster was as "hate-able" as Cal is. It's EXTREMELY fun, and I love it. It's great for the community.

Having lived in Memphis 21 years, 11 months, 3 days before getting pardoned, I can say that the most meaningful athletic events in Memphis always involved the Tennessee Vols.

However, nobody in East Tennessee cares about Memphis - the town or the school - so I say don't ever play Memphis again in any sport.

SouthPaVol writes:

in response to stevefrommemphis:

Having lived in Memphis 21 years, 11 months, 3 days before getting pardoned, I can say that the most meaningful athletic events in Memphis always involved the Tennessee Vols.

However, nobody in East Tennessee cares about Memphis - the town or the school - so I say don't ever play Memphis again in any sport.

It's not just E TN that cares nothing for Memphis. I lived and worked in Jackson, TN, for three years back in the 90's. The city is only 70 miles east of Memphis, but not a Tiger fan could be found. From what I saw, the whole town of Jackson bleeds orange, although it's well west of Nashville. Not sure who follows Memphis other than people who live in Memphis or alum, but maybe folks on the Arkansas side pull for the Tigers?

The Vols are in a no-win situation with these in-state smaller schools--supposed to win every game. Then when one of the cupcakes have a strong year, the Vols suffer.

I would prefer playing a stronger schedule over the in-state second tier teams. Keep Memphis and beef the schedule back up.

atributetoLombardiwasbanned writes:

in response to stevefrommemphis:

Having lived in Memphis 21 years, 11 months, 3 days before getting pardoned, I can say that the most meaningful athletic events in Memphis always involved the Tennessee Vols.

However, nobody in East Tennessee cares about Memphis - the town or the school - so I say don't ever play Memphis again in any sport.

I was born and raised in Memphis.
Still live nearby.
I hate the cesspool of a town as much as anybody.
But I and a whole HOST of Vol fans love it when we can see our Vols play without the 400 mile drive.

SummittsCourt writes:

in response to secondcreek:

I miss Bruce Pearl and his willingness to take on in-state teams (besides Memphis and Vandy) despite the obvious downside risks if they lost.

Did you bother reading the article?

johnlg00 writes:

I'm not sure how I feel about this. There are a number of successful basketball programs in the state. Seems it wasn't so long ago that Tennessee had as many teams in the NCAA tournament one year as any other state. If the Vols are going to play "buy-out" games, I would rather that they play in-state schools. To do otherwise just makes it look like they are ducking competition against the other in-state schools. If UT is reluctant to risk a loss against another in-state school, how is it going to measure up against other D-I schools?

shoelessvol#236864 writes:

The idea of playing Memphis twice a year is a really good one. Since we won't be playing Kentucky twice a year under the new SEC format, the need for a great rivalry series is a must!!

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to TIGERDAN:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

UT's dowry = Billions
Memphis St.= 65 million..Rhodes University = 80 million.
Enough said..Go away insignificant little brother.

keepitreal4vols writes:

in response to TIGERDAN:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

I often wish upon my lucky star that a big earthquake will hit Memphis and push the entire city into Arkansas.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to TIGERDAN:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Wheezy is just fine..Thanks for asking, Dan Williams.

Slystone writes:

in response to HarveyDent:

We need to keep the Memphis series going. The others not so much.

We always need to maintain a presence in Memphis. Actually our record against Tiger High is something like 14-9. Kinda surprising considering history.

Also, I thought Tiger High wanted to cancel this series because they get that butt beat more often than not and it helps us recruit.

That record is like that because during the 80's Devoe refused to play Memphis. Not saying that the Vols would have won, but the Tigers boasted some very tough teams during that decade. Most would agree that the record would be much different.

AtopTheHill06 writes:

in response to TIGERDAN:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

So pathetic that you think any of that is significant. CBHS is twice as good a venue as that heap of a stadium in "the mound." Tommy West recruited decently, better than fuente, and tiger high was still a perennial doormat. Maybe the tigers can break out from being one of the worst five div. 1 programs in the country, but I doubt it.

born2ride writes:

Martin is the only coach in UT history to lose to Austin Pee.

Martin lost to MTSU in the NIT.

Martin got beat by Memphis twice - one game by 18 points.

That is why we don't want to play in-state schools. It looks bad for the coach when we lose games we should win.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to stevefrommemphis:

It was not Belmont complaining about the balconies, but rather ETSU.

Dang!! Thanks a lot stevie! I re-read all that article to check your correction only to realize I don't care. Byrd, Mullins, Shulman, Pastner?? All enemies. The Mocs aren't my enemy but until Shulman learns to win he personally will be.lmao

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