How much of an impact do the Lady Vols make in the grand scheme of Tennessee Athletics?
If all sports were equal, Geno Auriemma would be in the conversation with Steve Spurrier for the number one overall seed in this tournament. His teams have been directly responsible for the Lady Vols not winning championships, 4-0 against UT in the title game. He has a winning record against Pat Summitt. And going above and beyond the call of duty, he's one of the least likeable figures in all of college sports. How many non-UConn fans do you find saying, "You know, I really like that Geno Auriemma fellow."
The Lady Vols are more equal in Knoxville than on any other college campus except the one in Storrs, though both will always struggle against juggernauts in football and basketball. But it's Bruce Pearl who gets an assist in making John Calipari matter as much as he does in Knoxville.
Calipari beat Rick Pitino in the first round, who is the single most successful coach against Tennessee in any major sport. I'm sure Cal's personality scores him some villain points as well, and his efforts in this rivalry are more recent. But the main reason Cal beat Pitino is because he won games that mattered.
The UT-UConn rivalry is strong enough to surpass many of the smaller men's rivalries; Auriemma beat Kevin Stallings in the first round. But Calipari spent time in the most meaningful trenches of the Tennessee-Memphis rivalry, and is currently in charge of the Vols' basketball nemesis during a time when it means something for Kentucky to beat Tennessee (hopefully Cuonzo Martin can continue to make this the case). They are similarly successful: Calipari is 7-4 against UT (.636), Auriemma 13-9 (.591). You really can't make a bad decision here.
Cal has beaten very successful Tennessee teams, but again, Auriemma has beaten a number of Lady Vol squads that would've been National Champions had the outcome been different. They are excellent villains to have in our two biggest basketball rivalries (you know, if UT and UConn would actually play again). But there can be only one.
Is John Calipari's presence in two of our biggest men's basketball rivalries enough to topple the greatest villain of the university's proudest sport?