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UK Basketball Team Won’t Play at Tennessee for the First Time in 60 Years

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Well there goes that long-standing rivalry. Okay, so the fact that the Kentucky Wildcats will not be playing basketball in Knoxville, Tennessee this year and for the first time since 1953 doesn’t necessarily mean the rivalry is at an end.

But it does put a crimp in one of the best parts of college sports.

The thing is, this was inevitable. And it’s happening all over the country. The Southeastern Conference has ballooned to a 14-team mega-league and there simply isn’t time to play all the other league opponents twice anymore.

Actually, that hasn’t been a possibility since the SEC went to 12 teams in 1991. But at least teams had the chance to twice square off against divisional opponents, setting off or maintaining tantalizing collegiate sports rivalries.

Now, that has gone by the wayside.

With 14 SEC members, Kentucky (like all other teams) can now only play four teams twice. They’ll double up with Florida every year–and THAT is the right thing to do. But the other three teams they’ll play twice will rotate in and out. And this year, Kentucky will only play Tennessee one time–at Rupp Arena.

As a huge college basketball fan and as someone who loves rivalry games in particular (Duke/North Carolina, Indiana/Purdue, Syracuse/Georgetown to name a few more), it’s a shame to see this round robin come to a close. Kentucky has played Tennessee more than any other team in college basketball. Sheer volume is why the Vols have more wins against the ‘Cats than any other team, despite the fact that Kentucky still has the winning record between the two.

But this year, Tennessee fans won’t get the game they circle with bright red Sharpie ink every single year–the home game against Kentucky.

Size does matter. And it has its consequences.

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