UT vs. In-state teams
Tennessee against in-state opponents in men’s basketball during the past 10 years. All games at home unless indicated.
Memphis (Maui Classic) L
Austin Peay L
At Memphis L
MTSU (NIT) L
Belmont (Preseason NIT) W
UT Martin W
Austin Peay W
At MTSU (Sun Belt Classic) W
At Memphis W
UT Martin W
At MTSU W
At Chattanooga W
Tennessee Tech W
Tennessee State W
Tennessee Tech W
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