NASHVILLE — If a pair of state lawmakers from Memphis have their way, the University of Tennessee and University of Memphis will meet annually in both football and basketball.
State Senator Brian Kelsey, R-Memphis, and State Representative Antonio Parkinson, D-Memphis, filed a resolution calling for the football and men’s basketball teams from the two schools to meet at least once during their regular seasons.
“Tennessee fans deserve to have the best football team determined not on talk radio, but on the gridiron,” Kelsey said. “While Coach (Penny) Hardaway welcomes playing the University of Tennessee in basketball, Coach (John) Calipari strongly opposed the idea, and future coaches could do the same. These are major Tennessee teams. While coaches may come and go, there is no reason these teams should not face each other every year or that such contests be omitted from their schedules.”
While Tennessee and Memphis last met in football in 2010, the two teams played a basketball game in Knoxville in December. The Tigers won that game, avenging a loss to the Vols during the 2018-2019 season.
Calipari, who coached at Memphis before leaving for Kentucky, was adamantly opposed to playing the Vols in basketball, saying that his school was a national brand and would not benefit from playing a regional game against Tennessee.
However, Tennessee’s stock has risen considerably in basketball, particularly after being ranked No. 1 in the nation for several weeks last season. Hardaway, the former NBA star who is trying to rebuild Memphis to national prominence, has welcomed an annual rivalry with Tennessee. However, Tennessee coach Rick Barnes is opposed to it, and the two teams are not scheduled to meet after this season. There was controversy during last season’s game in Memphis, which saw the Vols defeat the Tigers in Hardaway’s inaugural season at his alma mater. After the game, Hardaway insulted Barnes, and claimed Tennessee players had approached his team’s huddle with their “fists clenched” late in the game. The brouhaha appeared to fuel Tennessee’s resolve not to continue the basketball series.
Parkinson said he has talked to University of Tennessee President Randy Boyd, and that Boyd “gets the importance of this rivalry for our state, and the economic impact it will provide.”
If the legislation were approved, it would take effect for the 2025-2026 seasons.