Memphis may not like it, but even they would probably have to admit that there's a certain level of appreciation - not for each other, but for the rivalry - and raw passion that exists now between the Vols and the Tigers that simply wasn't there until Bruce Pearl arrived.
But the most important fact Vol and Tiger fans should remember as we get ready to play our in-state foes is that the story of this rivalry isn't "Memphis always drilled Tennessee in basketball until Bruce Pearl showed up", or "Memphis is good at basketball and Tennessee is good at football", which is often the way little kitty cat fans like to misremember it.
This will only be the 20th all-time meeting between the Vols and Tigers. And Tennessee has won 12.
Recent history? Tennessee has won seven of the last nine meetings in this series.
It drove me crazy last year to deal with the ridiculous arrogance of Tiger High fans, because it was founded on thin air. And thankfully, the Vols proved that on their home floor.
So now, here we go again. Back in Knoxville, where the Vols obliterated Memphis in December 2006. Back after a nice win over Vanderbilt to restore some confidence, ready to pick up our third straight win over the very best Conference USA has to offer.
And once more, we get to go against a coach that we absolutely love to hate.
John Calipari carries himself with more of that pretend arrogance, based on success against the gauntlet of Atlantic 10 and C-USA foes over the years. He used to be disinterested in the Vols and assumed he'd take all the players from this state he wanted. Bruce Pearl made him pay attention, and now the Vols have made him care.
But we still hate him.
Look, my parents are both from the Memphis area and I've got a whole heap of uneducated relatives on this particular subject in the Tennessee-Memphis rivalry, so it gets a little extra venom from me. But what about us at large, Vol Nation as a whole? Does John Calipari hold that most special place in our hearts?
I cannot wait for Saturday.
I am also convinced that Bruce Pearl would win this poll on lots of other sites.
Which coach do you love to hate the most?
John Brady (4 votes)
Dale Brown (1 vote)
John Calipari (50 votes)
Billy Donovan (7 votes)
Rick Pitino (11 votes)
Tubby Smith (1 vote)
Kevin Stallings (19 votes)
93 total votes