Until the 2006-2007 season, the two programs met annually in winter at one or both of the schools, but the rivalry is unique for having a third of its games occurring in the women's NCAA tournament. Four times, the national championship has been on the line.
The schools started playing each other in 1995. As of early 2007, UConn leads the series 13-9, including 5-2 in the tournament and 4-0 for the title. On the day of every meeting, both schools have been ranked in the top fifteen in the Associated Press rankings.
On June 8, 2007, it was announced the schools would discontinue the regular-season series.
On the Tennessee side is Pat Summitt, the all-time winningest NCAA Division I college basketball coach, male or female. Summitt has won eight NCAA women's tournaments, more than anyone else. She is the acknowledged dean of women's college basketball in the modern era. She has been the Naismith College Coach of the Year five times.
On the UConn side is Geno Auriemma, who has won five of the last eleven NCAA women's tournaments, four at the expense of Summitt in the finals. A media firebrand in the heart of ESPN country, Auriemma has become the most accomplished coach in the last decade, at one point posting a 70-game winning streak. He has four Naismith awards to Summitt's five.
The two have poured gasoline on the fire in press conferences, with Auriemma at one point calling Tennessee the "Evil Empire". The two have apparently mended fences after some sparring, Auriemma noted in his autobiography, Geno.
The next three years belonged to Summitt, as the Lady Vols won four of the next five meetings with the Huskies en route to three straight national championships. The "Meeks"—Chamique Holdsclaw, Semeka Randall, and Tamika Catchings—and point guard Michelle Marciniak powered Tennessee past all rivals, including UConn.
On the horizon, though, were Auriemma's most dominant classes yet, and possibly the strongest lineup ever in the women's game. The starting five of Sue Bird, Asjha Jones, Swin Cash, Tamika Williams, and (for the latter part of the run) Diana Taurasi gave UConn four of the next five national championships. In that run of 2000 to 2004, UConn crushed Tennessee in the rivalry, winning nine of the next eleven meetings, including the 2000, 2003, and 2004 championship games.
In the three seasons since Taurasi went to the WNBA, Summitt has rebounded with strong new players like Candace Parker, and has won each meeting. UConn's program, while still fearsome, has lacked a dominant scorer like Taurasi, and Tennessee has made the most of this vulnerability.
With these results, the rivalry continues to be top-of-mind in the women's game. A matchup in the 2002 Final Four at the Alamodome in San Antonio was in front of the largest crowd in women's history (29,619). The 2006 regular-season game at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville drew the largest crowd ever for a regular-season women's game (24,653).
After the 2007 game, Auriemma noted that the rivalry, while still intense, has lost some of its edge because of increasing parity in the women's game. As an illustration, 2006 was the first time since 1999 that neither UConn nor Tennessee had made the Final Four. He remarked, "In some sense, a small sense, it's still the Red Sox and the Yankees. It still is. But there's still a lot more good things going on in college basketball now. That's just the reality of it."
|January 16, 1995||UConn||77||Tennessee||64||Storrs, CT|
|April 2, 1995||UConn||70||Tennessee||66||Minneapolis, MN (National Championship)|
|January 6, 1996||UConn||59||Tennessee||53||Knoxville, TN|
|March 29, 1996||UConn||83||Tennessee||89 (OT)||Charlotte, NC (Final Four)|
|January 5, 1997||UConn||72||Tennessee||57||Hartford, CT|
|March 24, 1997||UConn||81||Tennessee||91||Iowa City, IA (Regional Final)|
|January 3, 1998||UConn||69||Tennessee||84||Knoxville, TN|
|January 10, 1999||UConn||81||Tennessee||92||Storrs, CT|
|January 8, 2000||UConn||74||Tennessee||67||Knoxville, TN|
|February 2, 2000||UConn||71||Tennessee||72||Storrs, CT|
|April 2, 2000||UConn||71||Tennessee||52||Philadelphia, PA (National Championship)|
|December 30, 2000||UConn||81||Tennessee||76||Hartford, CT|
|February 1, 2001||UConn||88||Tennessee||92||Knoxville, TN|
|January 5, 2002||UConn||86||Tennessee||72||Knoxville, TN|
|March 29, 2002||UConn||79||Tennessee||56||San Antonio, TX (Final Four)|
|January 4, 2003||UConn||63||Tennessee||62 (OT)||Hartford, CT|
|April 8, 2003||UConn||73||Tennessee||68||Atlanta, GA (National Championship)|
|February 5, 2004||UConn||81||Tennessee||67||Knoxville, TN|
|April 6, 2004||UConn||70||Tennessee||61||New Orleans, LA (National Championship)|
|January 8, 2005||UConn||67||Tennessee||68||Hartford, CT|
|January 7, 2006||UConn||80||Tennessee||89||Knoxville, TN|
|January 6, 2007||UConn||64||Tennessee||70||Hartford, CT|