SEC Expansion Kills Kentucky vs. Tennessee Rivalry

By brianlewis
Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports

The world of college basketball is seemingly expanding by the day. Many feel that four power-conferences with 16 teams in each is what we are headed towards. With all these changes on the horizon, some of the consequences are going to hurt college basketball. With the constant shifting of the landscape between power conferences, we are losing some of the best rivalries in the process. Rivalries encompass the passion of college sports and too many are headed to the graveyard.

Evidence of this tragedy can be seen nationally. Missouri‘s move to the SEC buried their heated rivalry with KansasTexas A&M will no longer have their rivalry with Texas. Even traditional games like the Iron Bowl and the Egg Bowl may be altered or eliminated due to more conference expansion. Today, we mourn the loss of Kentucky vs. Tennessee in SEC Basketball.

Almost since the inception of basketball at Kentucky, the Wildcats have always faced Tennessee. In fact, the Kentucky-Tennessee rivalry is, or was, the longest standing rivalry the Wildcats have. It’s a tradition for Kentucky fans to hate hearing “Rocky Top” blaring over the speakers and despise that creamy orange coloring. Today, the SEC has decided to end that tradition that dates back all the way to 1910. Instead, Kentucky’s SEC rival will be Florida due to both teams being relevant and producing the most eyeballs onto a screen. Kentucky will play Tennessee once in the next two years, while playing Florida as a home-and-home series.

If you were born in the past three decades, you may not call this game a “rivalry” because of Kentucky’s dominance in the 1990’s and in more recent memory. The Wildcats have compiled six Final Four appearances and four national titles since 1970, while Tennessee’s best accomplishment was an Elite Eight in 2010. Believe it or not, Tennessee was once the better program. Between 1970 and 1980, the Volunteers won 12 games against the ‘Cats, including streaks of five and four games in a row. More recent dominance by Kentucky and conference expansion has lead to it’s demise.

The credentials are all there for these teams to play each other every year in both arenas. The fans deserve it, and so do the teams. Naturally, the move by the SEC was more about the monetary benefits of having other teams visit Rupp Arena instead of Tennessee. If this was a football decision, like Alabama vs. Tennessee in football, the SEC might have left it alone. However, the basketball bounces slowly behind the spiral of a football in this league. The SEC has no issue dismantling petty basketball rivalries as long as the football rivalries are still heated and making that money.

It’s truly a sad day to be a fan of either team or a college basketball fan in general. You always tune in to see rivalry games, traditional games, border wars, whatever you want to call them. Due to monetary benefits, these classic games are being withheld from the fans. Kentucky and Tennessee is just the latest casualty. Georgetown and Syracuse ended in 2013, Duke and Maryland are gone in 2014. Who’s next?

Brian Lewis is an SEC Basketball Writer for You can add him to your network on Google for more of his work.

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