Friday's Memphis-Tennessee game could be the last for a long time

Josh Pastner has no interest to continue series

No. 1 University of Memphis's Derrick Rose drives to the basket against No. 2 Tennessee's Chris Lofton during the Vols' 66-62 win at the FedEx Forum in 2008. The win moved the Vols to No.1 for the first time.

Photo by Mike Brown/Commercial Appeal

No. 1 University of Memphis's Derrick Rose drives to the basket against No. 2 Tennessee's Chris Lofton during the Vols' 66-62 win at the FedEx Forum in 2008. The win moved the Vols to No.1 for the first time.

For one last time until who-knows-when, the University of Tennessee and the University of Memphis will gather Friday night for a men's basketball game. UT's 21,678-seat Thompson-Boling Arena will be near capacity.

And then ...

"We will not play Tennessee anymore as long as I'm the head coach and I'm doing my scheduling," Memphis coach Josh Pastner told the News Sentinel on Monday.

An eight-year, home-and-home contract between Tennessee and Memphis comes to a close Friday. The Vols have won four. The Tigers three. An additional meeting at the 2011 Maui Invitational went to Memphis, evening the seven-year series, 4-4.

Friday is the rubber match.

Then it's over. No plans exist to renew the contract.

"If they aren't going to do it then we have to move forward and schedule games we need to schedule," UT coach Cuonzo Martin said Tuesday. "That's where we are. You've heard Josh say why he doesn't want to play and that's fine, I can respect that. For us, we'd like to continue, but if not, we have to move forward."

Pastner firmly rejects scheduling any future meeting. He first said so as a second-year head coach in 2011, telling Knoxville radio station WNML-AM, "I don't think it does us any good." The reason: Inviting the Vols to play on the fertile hoops soil of Memphis offers UT an unneeded recruiting platform.

"Over time I've evolved as a head coach on that," Pastner said Monday. "My thing (in playing Tennessee) is, I don't want to be locked into something that we don't have to be locked into. I'd rather have way more flexibility (in scheduling) and (play) different teams and this and that — as long as the one team on the schedule every year is Louisville."

According to Pastner, Louisville has essentially replaced Tennessee as the long-term rival on the Memphis schedule. They've met the past two seasons with Louisville winning each. The Tigers will face the Cardinals as Big East Conference mates next year and continue the rivalry as a traditional home-and-home series from 2014-15 onward after Louisville moves to the ACC.

"I think Tennessee is a very good basketball program, I have great respect for them and I think it's a high-level game, but I don't look at playing Tennessee any differently than playing Gonzaga or Xavier or Florida or Texas or UCLA," Pastner said. "Those are national games. The rival game for our fan base, our city, is Louisville, not Tennessee."

In a wildly successful series, either Memphis or Tennessee has been ranked in all but one of the seven contracted meetings. The unranked Tigers beat the unranked Vols, 69-51, at FedExForum last season.

A Feb. 23, 2008, matchup — No. 2 Tennessee's 66-62 victory at No. 1 Memphis — stands as arguably the greatest college basketball game ever played within the state lines.

That season's Sports Illustrated preseason preview featured UT's Chris Lofton and Memphis's Chris Douglas-Roberts on the cover. Large, black letters spelling RIVALRY! splashed across them.

UT's narrow win lived up to the billing. The New York Times called it, "The biggest sporting event in the history of Memphis" and concluded, "The sublime game helped usher college basketball into the spotlight."

Six years later, the rivalry is at its vanishing point.

In a comment through university spokesman Jimmy Stanton, UT athletic director Dave Hart said, "Our position hasn't changed, and we certainly want to continue to play the University of Memphis series. We haven't come to a final resolution with them yet."

The current agreement between Memphis and Tennessee dates back to a scheduling skirmish between the two in the fall of 2003.

At the time, Memphis coach John Calipari had zero interest in scheduling a home-and-home series against UT. He said, perhaps, the two could play in Nashville, if at all.

Then-Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton countered by cancelling all remaining football dates between the two.

An accord was made between Hamilton and then-Memphis athletic director R.C. Johnson. In December 2003. UT agreed to play the Tigers in football five times in a nine-year period (one remaining game is scheduled for 2017) and Memphis agreed to play the Vols in an eight-year home-and-home series beginning in 2005-06.

That agreement has come to pass.

Current Memphis athletic director Tom Bowen, who replaced Johnson in June, was unavailable for comment.

Asked if he'd champion Calipari's scheduling solution, Pastner replied, "No, I have no interest in doing it in Nashville on a neutral court, either."

Tennessee and Memphis State, as it was known, first met in basketball in 1969. The Vols won, 72-51. Nineteen years passed before the two began a 14-year home-and-home series that ended in 2001.

UT leads the all-time series 14-10.

"It's one of the better rivalries in the nation," said Tennessee sophomore forward Jarnell Stokes, a Memphis native and first UT recruit from the city since Dane Breadshaw in 2002. "It should continue. Guys like me grew up watching the Memphis-Tennessee series. I'll be devastated if they choose to cancel it."

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

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Comments » 67

FEARinSEC writes:

Sounds like Pastner is a skeered wittle baby! Good grief, boy, grow a pair and quit your damm whining!!

VOLuptuous writes:

This is simple. Just like last time. Refuse to play them in football, baseball, or whatever until their basketball team gets on board. Last I checked, it is a pretty big monetary windfall for that university when the school from knoxville brings its football team to town. Do not EVER give them that opportunity again.

BigOrangeSports writes:

So he is afraid of UT getting recruits out of Memphis. Does he feel that way about all teams? If so, will he not allow Memphis to play any home games at all? Seems like the best way to keep a local recruit is to beat the teams you play, regardless of where it is. Me thinks he's skeered of Coach C.

Razor784 writes:

One game a year won't change recruiting in Memphis. Football is where the big money is and Memphis just threw away a lot of it.

mountainbrook writes:

Skeeeeered!

Colliervol writes:

I wholeheartedly agree. Been saying it for years that we should play them in NOTHING and I'm very happy it is finally coming to pass. Now I can totally ignore them. Playing them does zip for our bottom line. And that "recruiting Memphis" nonsense is a joke for one game every two years. If UT wants a basketball presense in the area, schedule a non-conference game every year at the Desoto Civic Center in Southaven. It seats 9000 for basketball and is only about 5 miles south of the city limit. Oh and one note for Josh: You get to be classified as a "national program" when you win a couple of national titles. You might want to consider beating a Top 25 team first. Haven't done that in your head coaching career.

Colliervol writes:

And no matter what happens Friday nite, we'll still be leading the series. Now how does a "national" program let a middling little regional program do that to them? Methinks they've had an over-inflated view of their place in the basketball universe for a LONG time. And joining the now Big Least isn't the cure all they thought. Good riddance as far as I'm concerned.

tennrich1 writes:

If CJP thinks this game isn't a HUGE rival game in Memphis he really is COMPLETELY incompetent... Been to several games with JOSH as coach....HE IS JUST PLAIN BAD....with the huge advantage in talent there's no way the Vols should be able to play with Tigers in this game. I personally am tired of playing Memphis pulling our RPI down....don't play them in anything and move on.....

Colliervol writes:

in response to VOLuptuous:

This is simple. Just like last time. Refuse to play them in football, baseball, or whatever until their basketball team gets on board. Last I checked, it is a pretty big monetary windfall for that university when the school from knoxville brings its football team to town. Do not EVER give them that opportunity again.

They would rather schedule UT Martin. That really filled up the old Liberty Bowl. Oops, couldn't beat them either. Never mind.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

What's the deal with that circus midget?

Gunzilla writes:

They struggled to beat Lipscomb. Pastner can't coach
against the big boys.

1vavolfan writes:

This stuff goes on all of the time, the coaches could care a less about the fans. UK ducked Louisville for years and the governor intervened and made them play each other, now UK and Indiana duck one another. Pastner's comments were that as long as I'm coach are key, he could very well be replaced this year or next, he has a top 5 recruiting class and has an RPI of 101 and will have to win the conference tournament to make the NCAA's again.

tennrich1 writes:

in response to 1vavolfan:

This stuff goes on all of the time, the coaches could care a less about the fans. UK ducked Louisville for years and the governor intervened and made them play each other, now UK and Indiana duck one another. Pastner's comments were that as long as I'm coach are key, he could very well be replaced this year or next, he has a top 5 recruiting class and has an RPI of 101 and will have to win the conference tournament to make the NCAA's again.

I know the families of a couple of current Tigers and have multiple friends who played bb at Memphis . I just feel bad for the kids playing for Pastner. Austin must have really wanted to stay close to mom and dad to go to Memphis. I still wish him well though.

gobigorange5090 writes:

Pastner is a PUNK!

gobigorange5090 writes:

in response to 1vavolfan:

This stuff goes on all of the time, the coaches could care a less about the fans. UK ducked Louisville for years and the governor intervened and made them play each other, now UK and Indiana duck one another. Pastner's comments were that as long as I'm coach are key, he could very well be replaced this year or next, he has a top 5 recruiting class and has an RPI of 101 and will have to win the conference tournament to make the NCAA's again.

Its "couldnt care less."

keepitreal4vols writes:

Jarnell has spoken, keep the series.

VolGrad writes:

Sad state of affairs. Memphis coach doing this due to some type of recruiting envy? Sad. Very sad. People show up to those games. I thought money dictated everything. Makes you say, "hmm."

cincivol writes:

It really dose not matter if we play them or not. UT is the state program and known by all athletes in the state. It's funny how Louisville does not view Memphis High the same way. Rivalry (real hate) games are worth so much more but CJP doesn't get that. See you later. Last I checked they don't get any pub over there unless they are good and Calimari is in KY.

brokebackvol writes:

Oh dear, what will we do if the Vols aren't playing Tiger High???

Big deal. Move on, we don't need them anyway.

brod writes:

i personally think that ending the rivalry with tennessee will hurt memphis in recruiting head to head with tennessee. i also think that it is hilarious that the big east is disbanding. have fun recruiting in conf-usa pastner.

volforeverandever writes:

Their new name can be the chicken tigers.What too many losses,or those mean ole Vols getting too many Memphis area recruits? I knew we have been playing what I would call fair but nothing that outstanding.I just didn't' think about anyone being scared of us.I guess they want to back to the old days where they pad the schedule and have a lot of easy wins.

Colliervol writes:

You obviously haven't had the pleasure of having to live in this area and listen to their whining, paranoid fan base for 30 years. Every problem they have is blamed on the SEC and primarily UT and Ole Miss keeping them out. Just yesterday at a bowl watch party, I had to listen to one of them drone on and on about how UT has mistreated them. I just laughed and tuned him out. It's not worth the hassle and the end of this series can't come soon enough.

Colliervol writes:

My mistake. The above comment was in response to our resident goof above who said we should play this bunch of sad sacks in football and basketball every year. As Roy Clark once sang: "Thank God and Greyhound she's gone!" They can't be gone soon enough.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

I've heard of them. Memphis? Elvis is there you know. He's a sanger and star of the movin' pictures.

PASTNER HAS LEFT THE BUILDING!!

GBO. BEAT BLUE KATZ. All of 'em.

Sir_Spanky writes:

Tiger High! The red-headed stepchild!

rusty_shackleford writes:

First, who was Dane "Breadshaw"? I remember a Bradshaw kid who was pretty good. Second, now we know how UNC feels when Hammy ducked out of the football contract. Makes Memphis High look small just like it made UT look small in football.

orangecountyvols writes:

Collier,

You must be referring to the kid, who was taking a break from reading his manual on 'how to sell a used t.v. set'.........much as an eskimo reading his manual on how to sell ice to his neighbors.

Pastner comes across as a little wimp on the sideline trying to coach the big boys. Fear is all over his comments IMO.

Tennfan4075 writes:

If the teams are good they can meet at the dance. If they don't make the dance then why would anyone care about two mediocre teams scrabbling over recruiting turf? This type of whining is bush league get a life guys.

VolsSquid writes:

He's 12! He's taking his ball and going home because J Stokes decided to go with a winning group of people, from the coaches to the players. Take away their football program and they'll want us back. Or get rid of the Cow Pasture(Pastner) and it will thrive again.

jt45 writes:

in response to gobigorange5090:

Pastner is a PUNK!

Your being too kind, there are better words but KNS
would bleep them out. Would be great to see the vols put a whoopin on Pastners Kitty,s in the final game here. (until Memphis dumps the jerk)

stevefrommemphis writes:

Tennessee has no reason to play Memphis State in any sport at any time. Hopefully the football series is over and Tennessee will never play Memphis State in football again.

I lived there 21 years, 11 months, and 3 days.
Memphis State is a bush league school in a bush league town.

DallasVol4Life writes:

I'm a native Memphian and UT alum so I follow both team's b-ball programs. Pastner has been a huge disappointment. His logic is not valid in ending this series. I think he did his best coaching job his first year. It has been downhill since then. He's a control freak, poor coach and poor motivator. He can recruit though.

I hope Pastner is not the coach next year. I don't really want him to get fired but I would like him to leave to take another job. He's not even on the same page with new AD. There some kerfuffle and scuttlebutt a couple of months ago about a series with Ole Miss. The AD was quoted in the CA saying there will be a renewed series and Josh immediately went on the radio saying he makes the decisions on the schedule and nothing had been decided and he did not want to play Ole Miss. The Tigers 2012-13 schedule has to be one of the worst I've seen in awhile. Louisville was the only good team and then okay teams in UT and Xavier and then a bunch of mid-majors. Pastner is bringing that program down. I really hope he leaves after this year.

trubleoj#657755 writes:

watch you don't trip over that tail between your legs.

DallasVol4Life writes:

in response to cincivol:

It really dose not matter if we play them or not. UT is the state program and known by all athletes in the state. It's funny how Louisville does not view Memphis High the same way. Rivalry (real hate) games are worth so much more but CJP doesn't get that. See you later. Last I checked they don't get any pub over there unless they are good and Calimari is in KY.

As far as Louisville not viewing Memphis as a rival, I'm not sure where you get your information but you are clearly mis-informed.

This fan doesn't agree with you:
http://blogs.courier-journal.com/ulfa...

I suggest reading Peyton Siva's and Pitino's quotes in this article:
http://www.courier-journal.com/apps/p...

I would like to believe you over Louisville fans, Louisville players and the Louisville coach, but I just can't. It's obvious they consider Memphis a big rivalry for them.

Volbound1700 writes:

Governor Haslem and the legislaturecould use financial incentives to keep the rivalry going. This has happened numerous times with other in-state rivalries (UF-FSU, Auburn-Bama, UK-Louisville). I imagine the Tennessee Legislative Body would be open to this idea being that most of them are UT fans/alumns

Volbound1700 writes:

I would love to continue playing the game not for recruiting reasons but because it was a fun rivalry to watch as Jarnell Stokes stated. It reminds me of Kansas bailing on Missouri, nobody wins in these situations. Oh well, Tennessee could start a premier rivalry with Belmont or MTSU, both have been growing lately in basketball and unlike Memphis, MTSU actually has competitive football teams as well.

PabloMelton writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

born2ride writes:

Memphis is the biggest game of the year for the Vols. It is a shame they don't want to play us.

DonK37920 writes:

The state of Tennessee is the big loser. The problem isn't that a recruit will choose UT over Memphis, it's that a recruit will choose to leave the state because bball isn't big in Tennessee. It's thinking like this that will keep the nickname Tiger High for Memphis State!

SuperMclovin writes:

in response to DallasVol4Life:

As far as Louisville not viewing Memphis as a rival, I'm not sure where you get your information but you are clearly mis-informed.

This fan doesn't agree with you:
http://blogs.courier-journal.com/ulfa...

I suggest reading Peyton Siva's and Pitino's quotes in this article:
http://www.courier-journal.com/apps/p...

I would like to believe you over Louisville fans, Louisville players and the Louisville coach, but I just can't. It's obvious they consider Memphis a big rivalry for them.

I live in Memphis, Lifelong Tiger fan, and I can assure you you are correct, Louisville is a huge rival for us. It has been featured on Rivalry week on ESPN, the same week as UNC v Duke. Due to Louisville moving past us in the Athletic Program (with them changing to major conferences) the rivalry has died down, but luckily Pitino has showed a great admiration for it and is has rekindled it. It goes way back. I am sure they do not hate us as much as they hate UK, but we would be right behind UK. With that said, most of us Tiger fans would like to see us continue playing UT in basketball, we do not agree with cancelling the series. The Pearl vs Cal 1v2 was great for the state and both schools. Sure, we lose a basketball player to you every now and then, but we lose one to someone anyways.

FearlessFreep writes:

Scared coach is scared.

SuperMclovin writes:

in response to stevefrommemphis:

Tennessee has no reason to play Memphis State in any sport at any time. Hopefully the football series is over and Tennessee will never play Memphis State in football again.

I lived there 21 years, 11 months, and 3 days.
Memphis State is a bush league school in a bush league town.

If you lived here for so long, then how come you don't know the name of the school is the University of Memphis, and not Memphis State? You have a bush league brain

HighPlainsVol writes:

in response to FEARinSEC:

Sounds like Pastner is a skeered wittle baby! Good grief, boy, grow a pair and quit your damm whining!!

He's so skeered who chose to play a consistently quality opponent in Louisville. It's the recruiting thing that scares him, not the Vols BB team. Let's hope Butch gets our FB team back on track and gives the Tigers something to really be skeered of.

ashvol7 writes:

in response to SuperMclovin:

If you lived here for so long, then how come you don't know the name of the school is the University of Memphis, and not Memphis State? You have a bush league brain

It will always be Memphis State!

Rookie2 writes:

BWAAUK.., bwauk, bwauk, bwauk, bwauk...

DonK37920 writes:

in response to ashvol7:

It will always be Memphis State!

Or Tiger High if they keep acting like this!

Navaloranges writes:

What a freaking WUZZZZZ!

tennrich1 writes:

in response to born2ride:

Memphis is the biggest game of the year for the Vols. It is a shame they don't want to play us.

???????????????? Makes no sense???????

johnlg00 writes:

in response to SuperMclovin:

I live in Memphis, Lifelong Tiger fan, and I can assure you you are correct, Louisville is a huge rival for us. It has been featured on Rivalry week on ESPN, the same week as UNC v Duke. Due to Louisville moving past us in the Athletic Program (with them changing to major conferences) the rivalry has died down, but luckily Pitino has showed a great admiration for it and is has rekindled it. It goes way back. I am sure they do not hate us as much as they hate UK, but we would be right behind UK. With that said, most of us Tiger fans would like to see us continue playing UT in basketball, we do not agree with cancelling the series. The Pearl vs Cal 1v2 was great for the state and both schools. Sure, we lose a basketball player to you every now and then, but we lose one to someone anyways.

A very temperate response from a Memphis fan, especially considering the usual quota of gratuitous anti-Memphis slams on here. I too think the rivalry is good for both teams. Most years, a victory of either one over the other boosts RPI for the winning team. I can't imagine why Pastner fears losing recruits to UT, if he does, since the only Memphis players I recall to play at UT in living memory are Dane Bradshaw, JP Prince, and Jarnell Stokes. Seems there is enough talent in the Memphis area that the Tigers could afford to lose an average of one guy to UT every five years! I hate to see this series end.

DallasVol4Life writes:

in response to born2ride:

Memphis is the biggest game of the year for the Vols. It is a shame they don't want to play us.

It's not "they", it's solely Pastner. I don't get the guy. Everybody else, fans, sports talk radio, writers at the CA, heck I'm sure the players want to play UT.

I really hope the new AD doesn't listen to Josh. For some reason Pastner would rather play Murray St., MTSU, and Austin Peay than UT or any SEC school period. It's ridiculous and no one is agreeing with him.

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