Unrivaled: UConn, Tennessee, and the Twelve Years That Transcended Women's Basketball

Unrivaled: UConn, Tennessee, and the Twelve Years That Transcended Women's Basketball

Unrivaled: UConn, Tennessee, and the Twelve Years That Transcended Women's Basketball

Unrivaled: UConn, Tennessee, and the Twelve Years That Transcended Women's Basketball

Synopsis

For twelve years the women’s basketball rivalry between UConn and Tennessee was the most iconic matchup in women’s sports. Even now, twenty years since the annual series started, the competition between these two storied programs still provokes heated argument and bitter resentment. Led by Hall of Fame coaches Geno Auriemma and Pat Summitt, UConn and Tennessee combined for nine national championships, with the UConn Huskies winning five—including four against the Tennessee Lady Vols. In all, UConn won thirteen of twenty-two matchups during the rivalry, and along the way the two coaches—with distinctive and brash personalities and a shared determination to rule their sport—clashed privately and publicly, generating enough heat to make women’s basketball relevant in the national sports landscape as never before. On the court, the two teams produced a series of memorable games, from overtime thrillers to timeless classics that defined the sport. Off the court, the coaches’ encounters were often marked by their seemingly genuine dislike for each other, until the conflict reached a breaking point in 2007 and Summitt stunned the basketball world by canceling the series for reasons neither side has ever revealed. Now, eight years after the last game, Unrivaled uncovers the on-court and behind-the-scenes story of this intensely personal rivalry between coaches, players, and the two most passionate fan bases women’s sports has ever known.

Excerpt

Even though the teams haven’t played since 2007, UConnTennessee will always be the best rivalry in women’s college basketball. I was there from the beginning, when the Lady Vols visited Storrs for the first time. We didn’t know the game was going to turn into a rivalry. We didn’t know the rivalry was going to come to define women’s college basketball. We just knew that the number-one-ranked team and most storied program in college basketball history was coming to Gampel Pavilion to play our undefeated team. We saw it as a game, not as the beginning of something special.

Now, with the advantage of 20/20 hindsight, I see how special the rivalry became and how special it was to be there for the first contest. I played in the first two UConn-Tennessee games, called several more of them for cbs, and watched the rest as a fan. (I even watched a vhs copy of the second matchup in 2001 from my apartment in Spain a week after it was played. I knew the result—a Lady Vols win—but still had to watch.)

People who didn’t care about women’s basketball would watch UConn-Tennessee because the game always mattered. Both teams were always ranked and often both were undefeated. When they met in the regular season it was assumed to be a preview of a Final Four matchup down the road. the game was . . .

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