Bitter rivalries with teams that hate each other’s guts and want nothing more but to earn a signature victory against each other are what make athletics great. A perfect example of this is the relationship between the University of Tennessee and the University of Memphis, two instate schools that love to hate each other. The hatred UT and Memphis State have for each other was put on full display last season when Grant Williams and the Vols torched Memphis’ defense to earn a 102-92 victory.
However, many people didn’t end up talking about the result of the game but instead the beef that was formed during the rivalry match-up. During a timeout a very minor scuffle broke out, Memphis State head coach Penny Hardaway insisted that one of the Volunteers’ players went toward his team and tried to start a fight. Hardaway told the media, “The guy that was on the bench ran over to our side and he balled his fist up and asked our guys pretty much, ‘What was up’ like, he wanted to fight… if you look at the film, he will definitely eat those words. You know, because it’s on film.” However, for what it’s worth the video replay of the game shows nothing of the sort, and there is no concrete evidence to support Hardaway’s claim. To the contrary, the video does show Hardaway putting his hands on Tennessee PG Jordan Bone and softly pushing away as he was walking away from the scene.
The tension between Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes and Hardaway only escalated from there. Hardaway also told the media, “I don’t know who Rick Barnes thinks I am but I’m not a dude that likes to mess around about anything. I just call it like I see it. No matter how he’s trying to make things seem, and I think it’s kind of low class how he’s trying to downgrade my guys for flopping and all that. Man, come on, give me a break… He’s blessed to have the No. 3 team in the country and he should be happy with that. And we will see each other again, for sure.” The meeting with the media ended with Hardaway making it crystal clear how he felt about Barnes, “Rick Barnes, get the [EXPLETIVE] out of here.”
Given the recent history between the two programs, the development we learned about today was not a very big shock. WNML’s Jimmy Hyams tweeted, “Vols coach Rick Barnes said earlier today he doesn’t think UT-Memphis series will be renewed after the 3-game set is completed next year in Nashville Dec. 18 or 20.” Despite the emotional rivalry being one of the best in the nation, it now appears it will cease to exist yet again. Well, at least until a change of leadership is made at one or both of the Universities which seems very unlikely in the immediate future.
The Volunteers and Tigers will meet on December 14th in Thompson-Boling Arena for what is guaranteed to be an extremely physical and emotional game for both players and coaches.