Winds sweeping east from West Tennessee carried a different tune late Thursday afternoon.
Before the Tennessee-Memphis men's basketball rivalry could manage to die tonight at Thompson-Boling Arena, Tigers athletic director Tom Bowen reversed course with an unexpected resuscitation.
"We are re-evaluating everything," Bowen told The Commercial Appeal, adding that playing the Vols is "important for us."
The song couldn't have been more different than that being sung by Memphis coach Josh Pastner, who earlier in the week told the News Sentinel, "The facts are, this will be the last year of the series unless we play them in the postseason. Now obviously, if any of my bosses want to play them, that's —," he cut himself off there, and said, "Me as the head coach, the series is over, the contract is over, let's move on."
Pastner's boss wasn't quite ready to move on.
The Vols and Tigers and will face off today (TV: ESPN2, 8 p.m.) for the final meeting in an eight-year, home-and-away contract that began in 2005-06. The deal coincided with a five-game home-and-home football agreement that has one remaining contest scheduled for 2017 in Knoxville.
UT athletic director Dave Hart, in a Thursday afternoon email to the News Sentinel through university spokesman Jimmy Stanton, said, "As we have said all along, we have a strong desire to continue the series with Memphis. Over the course of the last couple of days, we've had multiple conversations with them, and I'm hopeful that we'll be able to get this resolved and continue the series."
"Men's basketball has been the primary focus of the discussion...we expect future discussions to include other sports as well."
Sports 56 WHBQ-AM in Memphis was the first to report Thursday that the rivalry might live to see another day.
Pastner has staunchly said he has no interest in playing Tennessee since 2011.
Speaking with WNML radio in Knoxville on Thursday afternoon, though, Pastner didn't rule out playing the Vols in the future. In an interview coming after news of Bowen's intent on playing UT came public, he told host Jimmy Hyams that he and Bowen will "re-evaluate" playing UT down the line.
On Monday, Pastner told
the News Sentinel, "We will not play Tennessee anymore as long as I'm the head coach and I'm doing my scheduling."
Four days later, Bowen was forthright in saying, "The problem right now with us scheduling in basketball is the (uncertainty surrounding) the Big East. I told Dave Hart when I get more definitives we can sit down and talk about (future) games and what we're going to do."
"I've known Dave Hart for a very long time. He is a very good guy."
UT coach Cuonzo Martin said Tuesday he's in favor of continuing the rivalry with Memphis in the future, but stated adding the Tigers to next season's schedule won't be possible. He didn't elaborate further on the 2013-14 schedule.
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.
Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at Twitter.com/BFQuinn