Thirty-one years is more than a streak; it’s a dynasty.
But on Monday, the Tennessee women’s basketball team slipped out of The Associated Press top-25 rankings for the first time since 1985. In the 565 consecutive weeks that the Lady Vols were included among the nation’s best teams, they were ranked No. 1 a staggering 103 times, according to ESPN.
It’s impossible to talk about the success of the Lady Vols without mentioning their head coach Pat Summit, who began coaching the team in 1974 when she was still a graduate student. Under her guidance, the program flourished, winning a combined 32 SEC titles and eight NCAA Championships. When she was diagnosed with early onset dementia in 2011 at the age of 59, she decided to retire before the 2012 season.
The team’s seemingly permanent fixture in the top-25, however, lived on for nearly four more years.
“It’s really an amazing streak and a tribute to all of the players and coaches who’ve contributed to the Lady Vols’ rich tradition of excellence,” Tennessee coach Holly Warlick said, according to ESPN.
Top-ranked UConn now owns the longest active streak in the poll at 428 consecutive weeks.
“The results this season haven’t been what we wanted, but I assure you my staff and I are working extremely hard to ensure that our players reach their potential and, in turn, help our program attain the level of success we expect at Tennessee,” Warlick said.
There are a few streaks in sports that stand the test of time: the 33 straight games won by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers, Cal Ripken Jr.’s 2,632 consecutive games played for the Baltimore Orioles in the ’80s and ’90s, Steffi Graf’s 377 weeks atop the women’s tennis rankings (though if anyone can dethrone her it’s Serena Williams, who’s currently in third), and the New England Patriots’ 18-1 season in 2007-08 (there are plenty more — feel free to share in the comments!).
The Tennessee women’s basketball team may have fallen out of the top 25, but it landed comfortably in the record books, right next to Summit.