Saturday, September 08, 2007

Ending UConn series allows other rivalries to develop, Summitt says

NEW YORK -- It's been three months since Pat Summitt decided to end the annual series between Connecticut and Tennessee that has been a staple in women's basketball for years.

The Hall of Fame coach finally talked about her decision as she was watching the U.S. women's basketball team train in New York on Saturday.

"I didn't think this was going to hurt women's basketball," Summitt said. "I haven't had the feeling that the whole nation's going to miss it. I think Tennessee fans and Connecticut fans and a lot of basketball fans look forward to that game because of the rivalry and the length of it and the type of competitive games we've had over the years."

Connecticut had signed a contract to extend the annual game through the 2008-09 season, but Tennessee declined to extend the series.

Summitt doesn't see that decision changing anytime soon.

"I'd never say never, but I wouldn't think so," she said.

Now, the only way UConn and Tennessee will play again is if they meet in the NCAA Tournament.

"That would bring a lot of attention, wouldn't you think?" Summitt said.

Connecticut leads the series 13-9, although Tennessee has won the last three meetings, including a 70-64 victory in January that featured a dunk by Lady Vols star Candace Parker. Tennessee went on to win the national championship last season.

Summitt feels the end of the game will give other rivalries a chance to develop.

"The fact that the television networks would seek our games every year is somewhat unfortunate," Summitt said. "I do think, in terms of this season, that the (women's) game can expand. I know for us, we're playing Oklahoma, which I think would get some good exposure."

The games against the Huskies have always drawn national television exposure and featured some of the nation's best players such as Rebecca Lobo, Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi for Connecticut and Chamique Holdsclaw, Tamika Catchings and Nikki McCray for Tennessee.

The teams first met on Jan. 16, 1995, when Connecticut beat No. 1 Tennessee 77-66. The Huskies completed their undefeated season with a win over the Lady Vols in the title game.

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