The Tennessee-Vanderbilt rivalry continued Wednesday night as the Vols defeated the Commodores 58-46 at Memorial Gym in Nashville. The rivalry will resume Sunday when the Lady Vols take on the Vanderbilt women's basketball team at Thompson-Boling Arena.
I realize I mentioned the Tennessee-Vanderbilt rivalry twice in a lead paragraph. I'm trying to make up for lost time.
I ignored it for years. Decades even.
Never mind that the schools are less than a three-hour drive apart. Or that they're both in-state schools and card-carrying members in the SEC.
They just always have seemed worlds apart — Tennessee, the football school; Vanderbilt, the academic institution.
But the sports disparity is dwindling, though you couldn't tell it by the history. This is more about recent history.
History: Before last season, Tennessee had won 28 of its last 29 football games against the Commodores.
Recent history: Vanderbilt beat the Vols 41-18 last season and lost in overtime the year before. And in the last five seasons, the Commodores have finished higher than the Vols in the SEC standings three times.
History: The Lady Vols are 61-8 all-time against the Commodores.
Recent history: Vanderbilt won by 14 points last season in Nashville and lost by eight this season in the same arena. It wasn't that along ago that Tennessee won six consecutive games in the series by double-figure margins.
History: The Tennessee men's basketball team is 113-70 all-time and has twice had double-digit winning streaks against Vanderbilt.
Recent history: Tennessee has won five of the last eight games in the series. But the Commodores had the same SEC record as the Vols last season and finished higher in the conference standings each of the two seasons before that.
History: The Vols have a 168-145-2 all-time record against Vanderbilt in baseball.
Recent history: The Commodores have won 12 of the last 18 games, including the memorable sweep of 2011 in which they outscored UT 39-5 in three games.
The status of the football rivalry is the most intriguing. Based on resources and tradition, there's no way Vanderbilt should threaten the Vols. But UT's repeated mismanagement coupled with Vanderbilt's hiring of James Franklin has turned a game that once held no suspense into one of great import for both programs.
New coach Butch Jones has stressed the significance of Tennessee dominating in-state recruiting. And he's not just referring to outsiders.
Tennessee no longer has to look beyond state lines to find a legitimate rival.