By Matt Norlander
If Josh Pastner gets his way, the Tigers and Tennessee Volunteers will have an annual meeting no more.
Pastner hates playing the game. Doesn't see the value in Tennessee coming into Memphis -- where recruits are ripe as ever -- and playing the Tigers every other year. He said as much on the radio Monday. Per the Memphis Commercial-Appeal:
“I have no desire to play Tennessee,” Pastner told hosts Josh Ward and Will West on WNML-AM 990. “I don’t think it does us any good. I’m just being honest with you. For us, it’s a game that, I don’t know why we play it, but we play it because the athletic director wants me to play it and he’s my boss and what he says goes.”This stems from the fact that, while its an in-state rivalry, Tennessee is ultimately getting more out of the deal than Memphis. There aren't a lot of players to recruit in Knoxville, which is quite a haul from the River City. But Tennessee is always trying to entrench itself in Memphis and pluck a recruit here or there. Ergo, the Vols are getting more out of the proposition than Memphis.
They're also winning more. Tennessee is 3-1 in the recent history of the rivalry.
I can't help but ask: Is Tennessee coming in to play Memphis every two years really damaging Pastner's recruiting ability? Unlikely -- but this is how coaches are. Any advantage possible, please. And eliminating Tennessee from the equation is the best thing for Pastner, so he's going to push for that. Plus, since Bruce Pearl is now gone, Tennessee is seen as a weaker opponent -- and it is -- so this is the perfect time for Pastner to let his opinion be known.
I like the game, but most outside the state won't really have an opinion on it if it goes away. That No. 1 vs. No. 2 game back in 2008 was pretty exciting, though. I think in-state series between national brands are good for the sport, so ultimately, I'd like to not see this go away. But if Pastner can trade this game for an annual meeting with another school (I think I saw Louisville tossed out as a possibility on Twitter), then I'm fine with it. And Tigers fans should be, too.
We've still got at least two more meetings between the clubs on tap, though. Memphis hosts this year, then travels to Knoxville for the 2012-13 season.
Photo: US PRESSWIRE