Editor's note: This story was originally published in December 2019.
If there was concern that the pilot light might have gone out forever on the UConn-Tennessee women's basketball rivalry, that its resumption in January after a 13-year hiatus would produce only lukewarm emotions instead of the burning enmity of the matchup at its most intense -- no worries.
This month, UConn coach Geno Auriemma got out his matches. In expressing his disdain for the NCAA about the denied transfer waiver for current Husky/former Lady Vol Evina Westbrook, Auriemma made comments that also torched Tennessee.
With a chance to raise funds for the Pat Summitt Foundation, former Tennessee coach Holly Warlick agreed in 2018 to a home-and-home series with UConn for 2020 and 2021. Many wondered if it could possibly feel the same, especially with Summitt gone.
It definitely will be different, but the fallout from the Westbrook transfer has reignited some of the old embers.
Here's a look at the rivalry and how we got here.
Stage 1: Building a rivalry from scratch
Jan. 16, 1995: UConn and Tennessee play for the first time.
It's a nationally televised game on ESPN, won 77-66 by the Huskies, who then took over the No. 1 ranking as voting was delayed a day to account for the game. At its peak, UConn-Tennessee represented the top talent in women's college basketball, and their games always felt like events. They brought out the best in each other, and the level of play seemed higher than with other matchups. Not surprisingly, many of the stars in the UConn-Tennessee rivalry went on to lengthy pro careers.
April 2, 1995: UConn beat Tennessee 70-64 for the NCAA title; it's the first of six meetings between the two schools at the Women's Final Four. UConn has won five of those.
March 29, 1996: After losing the first three meetings with UConn, Tennessee beat the Huskies in the national semifinals, 88-83 in overtime. That began a stretch in which Tennessee, led by Chamique Holdsclaw, would be the sport's dominant team. The Lady Vols won three consecutive national championships (1996, '97, '98) and five of seven meetings with UConn in this period. Current Tennessee coach Kellie (Jolly) Harper was Tennessee's point guard for much of this time.
March 24, 1997: Tennessee beat UConn 91-81 in the Elite Eight after having lost to the Huskies by 15 points in early January. The Lady Vols had dealt with injuries, including to Harper, in a 10-loss season that left them fifth in the SEC. But the team got healthy and jelled at the right time, going on to win the national championship.
Jan. 3, 1998: Tennessee had its largest margin of victory ever vs. UConn -- 15 points -- in an 84-69 victory in Knoxville. The Lady Vols finished a perfect 39-0 and became the first team in women's basketball's NCAA era to win three titles in a row.
Jan. 10, 1999: In perhaps their most contentious game, UConn's Svetlana Abrosimova and Tennessee's Semeka Randall tangled on the floor at Gampel Pavilion while scrambling for a rebound.
UConn fans thought Randall took a whack at Abrosimova's head, which Randall denied. Nonetheless, Huskies fans booed Randall the rest of the game. To no avail, however, as she scored 25 points in the Lady Vols' 92-81 victory. The teams didn't meet again that season; UConn lost to Iowa State in the Sweet 16, and Tennessee to Duke in the Elite Eight.
Feb. 2, 2000:
The Lady Vols won 72-71 in Storrs, Connecticut, in one of three games in the series decided by one point. This was the first year the programs opted to play twice -- home and home -- during the regular season, which they would do again in 2000-01. But that turned out to be too much, and they went back to one meeting per regular season in 2001-02.
April 2, 2000: The tide turned again, this time to UConn, which won the NCAA final 71-52, the second-largest margin of victory in the series. It was the Huskies' second of what are now 11 NCAA titles, and started a stretch where UConn would win eight of nine vs. Tennessee, with four of those at the Final Four. It's also when things began to go badly between Auriemma and Summitt, although it had been building for a while. With the Final Four in his hometown of Philadelphia, Auriemma held court. When asked about the fact that there were cheesesteak restaurants called "Geno's" and "Pat's" across the street from each other there, he joked, "Pat's is older and more dilapidated. Geno's is bigger and brand-new."
"You guys are everything the game should be. You're one of the best teams I've ever seen, and you need to go on and win the whole thing." Pat Summitt, to the UConn Huskies in their locker room after losing to them in the 2002 Final Four
Auriemma enjoyed verbal jousts delivered via the media, while Summitt did not. The respective fan bases embraced their coaches' personalities. UConn fans found Auriemma's barbs hilarious and thought Summitt should just fire back. Tennessee fans thought Auriemma was insulting and insufferable.
Feb. 1, 2001: A little over two weeks after losing senior star Tamika Catchings for the season to a knee injury, the Lady Vols had their most emotional win of the season, 92-88 over UConn in Knoxville, Tennessee. Later, they would lose in the NCAA Sweet 16 to Xavier, their earliest tournament exit since 1994. UConn would lose two stars to injury -- Abrosimova in the regular season and Shea Ralph in the Big East tournament -- and then lose a 15-point lead to eventual champion Notre Dame in the national semifinals. But the next season, the Huskies would be unstoppable.
March 29, 2002: Starting seniors Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Asjha Jones, Tamika Williams and sophomore Diana Taurasi -- who would all go on to be WNBA first-round picks -- UConn beat Tennessee 79-56 in the national semifinals. The 23-point margin is the largest in series history.
"She hates my guts." Geno Auriemma, on why Pat Summitt canceled the series
After the game, Summitt asked Auriemma if she could speak to his team in the locker room. "You guys are everything the game should be," Summitt recounted telling the Huskies in her 2013 book, "Sum It Up: 1,098 Victories, A Couple of Irrelevant Losses, and a Life in Perspective." "You're one of the best teams I've ever seen, and you need to go on and win the whole thing." UConn would finish a perfect season with an NCAA final victory over Oklahoma. But the détente between Auriemma and Summitt wouldn't last.
Stage II: Animosity starts to bubble over
April 8, 2003: UConn beat Tennessee in the NCAA final, 73-68 behind Taurasi's 28 points. During the season, Auriemma had tossed plenty of barbs -- he said all in jest -- in Summitt's direction. She had reached out to Villanova coach Harry Perretta in an attempt to spruce up her offense. Perretta was a longtime friend of Auriemma's but befriended Summitt as well. Auriemma needled Perretta about this, saying he had "dumped me for the Evil Empire." It became one of Auriemma's most famous quips; he said he was referencing the way New Englanders who root for the Boston Red Sox feel about the New York Yankees. Not everyone, including Summitt, got the joke.
"[Harry Perretta] dumped me for the Evil Empire." Geno Auriemma, on how longtime friend and Villanova coach Harry Perretta had befriended Pat Summitt
April 6, 2004: For the second year in a row, UConn beat Tennessee for the national championship, 70-61, capping three consecutive titles for the Huskies and for Taurasi, now a senior. This remains the last time the teams have met in the NCAA tournament. The series' dominance would shift again, though, as Tennessee had recruited the next great player, Candace Parker.
Jan. 8, 2005: Even without Parker, who sat out what would have been her freshman season with injury, Tennessee beat UConn 68-67, the third game in the series decided by one point. But another team that was an emerging power, Baylor, would win the national championship that season. Meanwhile, the recruiting battle for another prep superstar, then-sophomore Maya Moore, was ongoing and would create the biggest rift between UConn and Tennessee.
Jan. 7, 2006: Tennessee defeated UConn 89-80 in Knoxville, Tennessee. This season would be the only one between 2000 and now that neither UConn nor Tennessee would make it to the Final Four. The Huskies have been responsible for most of that streak, having appeared in the Final Four now for 12 consecutive years.
April 10, 2006: Moore, who went to high school in Atlanta, committed to UConn. She would go on to be the school's all-time leading scorer (3,036 points) and win two national championships with the Huskies.
Jan. 6, 2007: Parker dunked in a 70-64 victory over UConn in Hartford, Connecticut. Before the game Auriemma said that despite the rancor between the programs, he felt that the rivalry was a great thing for both programs and for women's basketball, and that he fully expected the series to continue. But that would be their last meeting for 13 years. Tennessee would go on to win the NCAA title.
Stage III: Summitt cancels the series
June 2007: Tennessee announces it would not continue the series against UConn, but didn't give a specific reason.
Summitt would say that Auriemma "knows why." Auriemma suggested it was because Summitt personally disliked him. "She hates my guts," he said. Both fan bases blamed the other's coach, but the majority of Tennessee fans seemed glad the series was over. Later in the month, it would be reported that Tennessee made a complaint to the SEC about UConn's recruiting tactics.
"She accused us of cheating. She just doesn't have the courage to say it publicly." Geno Auriemma
April 8, 2008: The bracket was set up for a potential matchup between Tennessee and UConn in the NCAA final, which would have been particularly dramatic in the wake of the series ending the year before. But Stanford defeated the Huskies in the semifinals, and then the Lady Vols beat Stanford for what turned out to be Summitt's last national championship. It remains the most recent of the Lady Vols' 18 trips to the Women's Final Four. Parker had a year of eligibility left, but having been in school for four years, opted to go to the WNBA, where she was MVP and rookie of the year in 2008.
April 22, 2008: Auriemma told reporters that Tennessee accused the Huskies of recruiting violations regarding Moore, and that was the real reason Summitt canceled the series.
"If you knew what the environment was, which I can't say, you would not want your kid in that environment." Geno Auriemma, saying what Evina Westbrook experienced at Tennessee was "not normal"
"She accused us of cheating," Auriemma said. "She just doesn't have the courage to say it publicly." Auriemma also said of the series ending, "It doesn't hurt me. Some people, that's just their style, they're passive-aggressive. Always wanting someone else to blame for what's going on." In March of that year, UConn officials had acknowledged they'd self-reported a secondary violation of NCAA rules with a 2005 ESPN studio tour arranged for then-top recruit Moore. Other than that, there were no other NCAA actions taken regarding UConn recruiting.
March 22, 2009: Ball State stunned Tennessee 71-55 in the first round of the NCAA tournament, the Lady Vols' first loss before the Sweet 16 in tourney history. Tennessee, which lost all five starters from its 2008 title team, finished the season 22-11. Meanwhile, UConn went undefeated this season and the next, winning consecutive NCAA titles in 2009 and 2010 and starting a winning streak of 90 consecutive games that would last until December 2010.
Oct. 21, 2010: At SEC media day, Summitt told a radio station that "there's a reason" Tennessee no longer plays UConn, alluding again to recruiting issues. Multiple Connecticut publications criticized Summitt for what they called vague and unfounded allegations, with one columnist even referring to her in print as "a jealous witch."
Stage IV: The unthinkable in Knoxville, a steady rise in Storrs
March 28, 2011: Tennessee lost for the first time ever to Notre Dame, falling in the NCAA regional final. It began of string of four NCAA Elite Eight losses in five years by the Lady Vols. It was also Summitt's last game before being diagnosed with dementia. Meanwhile the next great rivalry in women's basketball was heating up, as Notre Dame beat UConn in the national semifinals. The coaches in that matchup, Auriemma and Muffet McGraw, also have a frosty relationship, but they recognize the series as mutually beneficial and it is currently extended through 2024.
Aug. 24, 2011: Summitt, 59, announced that she had been diagnosed with early-onset dementia-Alzheimer's type.
"There's not going to be any pity party. I plan to continue to be your coach," Summitt said. "Obviously, I realize I may have some limitations with this condition, since there will be some good days and some bad days." Tennessee interim athletic director Joan Cronan and chancellor Jimmy Cheek pledged their support for Summitt remaining as head coach.
Sept. 5, 2011: Dave Hart was announced as the new director of Tennessee athletics, which has opted to fully merge the men's and women's departments. His tenure will not be remembered fondly by Tennessee fans, who feel he shows little respect for the Lady Vols' brand name or their history.
Nov. 13, 2011: Tennessee opened the season with an 89-57 victory against Pepperdine. Longtime assistant Holly Warlick served throughout the season as acting head coach, although Summitt was still on the bench. Warlick handled news conferences and other responsibilities with the media.
March 26, 2012: Tennessee lost 77-58 to eventual national champion Baylor in a regional final in Des Moines, Iowa. It was Summitt's final game as head coach.
March 30, 2012: Summitt and Auriemma talked and shared a hug at the Final Four in Denver. Auriemma and wife, Kathy, would be among the early donors to the Pat Summitt Foundation.
April 18, 2012: Summitt stepped aside as Tennessee's head coach and moved to an emeritus role, with Warlick officially taking over as head coach. Summitt finished with a record of 1,098-208, with eight NCAA titles.
April 9, 2013: UConn routed Louisville 93-60 behind freshman Breanna Stewart's 23 points. It was the first of four consecutive NCAA titles for the Huskies, who had perfect seasons in 2013-14 and 2015-16. Their 110-game winning streak that started in November 2014 would last until March 2017.
June 28, 2016: Summitt died at age 64 from the effects of Alzheimer's. Auriemma was one of many coaches in attendance at a celebration of her life at Thompson-Boling Arena on July 14.
Stage V: A new beginning -- but as fiery as ever
Aug. 14, 2018: Tennessee and UConn announced the resumption of their series, to be played in Hartford in 2020 and in Knoxville in 2021, with part of the proceeds going to the Pat Summitt Foundation.
"Pat's is older and more dilapidated. Geno's is bigger and brand new." Geno Auriemma, when asked to compare rival Philly cheesesteak restaurants at the 2000 Final Four
March 27, 2019: Warlick was fired after seven years as head coach; the Lady Vols went 19-13 and lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Asked about the situation, Auriemma said, "I feel terrible for Holly. Every school is entitled to have their own coach, obviously, and Tennessee is entitled to have whoever they want as their coach. I don't know the details of all that, but I just ... anytime a coach is in that situation, I feel it because we're all part of the same community. Holly will land on her feet for sure." In April, Tennessee hired former Lady Vols guard Harper.
May 10, 2019: Guard Evina Westbrook, who had said changes were needed in Tennessee's staff after the first-round loss, announced that she would transfer to UConn. The Huskies said they would attempt to obtain a transfer waiver for her, so she could play this season.
Nov. 1, 2019: UConn announced that Westbrook's transfer waiver has been denied, and Auriemma criticized both the NCAA and Tennessee. When UConn's appeal was also denied on Nov. 13, he continued his criticism. Of the NCAA, Auriemma said, "You start to wonder, do people who work at the NCAA actually have any idea what goes on on campuses, or should this decision be actually made by people who have coached, people who have been administrators? I'm disappointed personally because I don't agree with how this system works."
Auriemma said the situation at Tennessee was not normal and, "If you knew what the environment was, which I can't say, you would not want your kid in that environment." He also indicated that Tennessee athletic director Phillip Fulmer was not being honest about his involvement in Westbrook's transfer.
Nov. 15, 2019: Warlick told ESPN.com that Auriemma's criticism of Tennessee was unfair. "I hate for it to come to this, but nobody except the NCAA made the decision. To throw us under the bus, I think it's kind of crazy. We've produced a lot of not only great players but quality people from that program."