Why Tennessee vs LSU could become big rivalry in all sports | Adams

SEC rivalries have been a popular topic of conversation since the conference is on the verge of expanding to 16 teams. And any rivalry discussion involving Tennessee is almost certain to include Alabama.

No matter how the SEC aligns teams or how many conference games it mandates, Alabama vs. Tennessee isn’t going away. They have worked too long and hard at making the Third Saturday in October a football date to remember.

But not all rivalries are more than a century in the making. And they aren’t all-encompassing.

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Alabama is Tennessee’s biggest rivalry in football. But whom would the Vols rather beat in basketball more than Kentucky?

Some rivalries come and go.

Florida vs. Tennessee mattered as much as any conference game in the 1990s when the SEC went to divisional play and both programs were at the top of their game. But divisional play is about to go away in a 16-team conference. The annual Vols-Gators rivalry will be collateral damage.

But I’m not dwelling on lost rivalries. I’m thinking about the ones to come.

Please welcome LSU vs. Tennessee.

Their baseball teams will meet Thursday in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for the beginning of a three-game series, whose sellout crowds will include a passel of major league scouts.


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The interest shouldn’t be a one-time thing. Based on how well Tennessee’s Tony Vitello and LSU’s Jay Johnson can recruit, the Vols and Tigers likely will become regular contenders for SEC supremacy and the College World Series.

Baseball will matter most this week. But I expect Tennessee vs. LSU to become a big deal in other sports, too – mainly because the two schools have proved they’re willing to spend money in hiring and keeping coaches. They also have recognized the value of name, image, and likeness deals in funding their sports – especially football.


Brian Kelly left Notre Dame for LSU after the 2021 season because he thought he had a better chance of winning a national championship with the Tigers. He needed just one season to put LSU in the SEC championship game. And the way he’s recruiting and adding transfers, even better days are ahead.

Josh Heupel’s transformation of Tennessee football also has turned heads. In two years, The Vols have gone from 3-7 in coach Jeremy Pruitt’s last season to 11-2 and the top 10 under Heupel.

In the next few years, I wouldn’t be surprised to see both the Vols and Tigers in the College Football Playoff.

Football matters to everyone in the SEC. But women’s basketball also matters to Tennessee and LSU.


UT’s prominent place in that sport is longstanding, dating back to the Pat Summitt-built dynasty that produced eight national championships. LSU proved it was aiming higher in women’s basketball two years ago when it threw enough money at coach Kim Mulkey to lure her away from Baylor, where she won three national championships.

Mulkey already has won more than 50 games in two seasons and has signed the No. 1 recruiting class for 2023. Tennessee didn’t have that kind of recruiting success. But WNBA prospects Tamara Key and Rickea Jackson both announced they will return next season. NIL money often factors into such decisions.

So, you have two schools interested in winning in multiple sports. And they’re willing to pay the price.

That could make for a great rivalry.


John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or john.adams@knoxnews.com. Follow him at: twitter.com/johnadamskns.

This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Why LSU vs. Tennessee could become a huge rivalry in multiple sports