Tennessee’s 31-year run in the AP top 25 poll is over

Since Feb. 17, 1985, when Ronald Reagan was president and phones were just something attached to the wall, Tennessee has been ranked in the AP top 25 poll. But the 31-year streak is over today.

After losing twice this past week, the Lady Vols, who had been ranked 24th, dropped out of this week’s poll:

1. Connecticut
2. Notre Dame
3. South Carolina
4. Baylor
5. Ohio State
6. Maryland
7. Oregon State
8. Texas
9. Arizona State
10. Louisville
11. Texas A&M
12. Florida State
13. Stanford
14. UCLA
15. Kentucky
16. Mississippi State
17. Miami
18. Syracuse
19. DePaul
20. Michigan State
21. South Florida
22. Oklahoma State
23. Oklahoma
24. Missouri
25. Colorado State

It’s been a long, painful descent this season for Lady Vol fans. Each loss they’ve had has resulted in higher and higher-pitched hysteria, calls for coach Holly Warlick’s firing, questioning of the heart and commitment of each player on the roster, and other ugliness. I lost one Tennessee fan friend on Facebook before quitting that form of social media altogether; the Tennessee Lady Vols fan page was reason enough to quit alone. Another Tennessee devotee I know messaged me yesterday after the loss that he was leaving Twitter indefinitely.

The intense grief is because it seems like the foundation of the sport is dying. Of course there have been many women’s basketball pioneers, without whom the game never would have got out of the sports basement. But it was the charismatic Pat Summitt and her Lady Vols who turned the spotlight on the game, who set the first standards of greatness that inspired other programs to follow.

Is that program now dead and gone? It’s much too early to tell.

What has happened to the team this year, which began with such high expectations? Fans can guess until they’re blue in the face, but unless you’re on the team or part of the staff, you don’t know. So don’t try to pretend that you do.

Should Holly Warlick be let go? Not necessarily. And it’s none of our business anyway.

It’s just a sad, sad time for Tennessee fans, and long-time women’s basketball fans. Change is inevitable, but sometimes it’s incredibly painful.

As for the rest of the poll, Florida also dropped out, and Missouri and Colorado State dropped in. There are no other surprises considering the weeks that the teams had.