Pat Summitt’s Legacy

Pat Sue Summitt, former University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach, died June 28, 2016 at the age of 64. She is known as the women with 1,098 career wins, the most in NCAA basketball history, and for helping with Title IX. Summitt, born Patricia Sue Head, in Clarksville, Tennessee grew up loving the sport. When she was in high school, her family moved to Henrietta, Tennessee so she could play basketball because Clarksville did not have a women’s team.

After high school, she attended the University of Tennessee at Martin and played for the university’s first female basketball coach, Nadine Gearin. During her time at UT, Summitt’s parents had to pay for her to attend and play basketball because there were no athletic scholarships for women, while her brother received an athletic scholarship.

Summitt later won a silver medal for playing in the 1976 Summer Olympics for the United States women’s national basketball team, where she was a co-captain. In 1984, she coached the team, winning a gold medal where she became the first U.S. Olympian to win a basketball medal and coach a medal-winning team.

In 1974, just before the basketball season, Summitt became a graduate assistant for the University Tennessee. She was then named head coach at 22 years old, after the previous coach quit. In her first year coaching, while attending class to complete her Master’s, Summitt only made $8,900 that year. Also, during her first year she would do things that you would never see now days. In an interview with Time, she said:

“ I had to drive the van when I first started coaching. One time, for a road game, we actually slept in the other team’s gym the night before. We had mats; we had our little sleeping bags. When I was a player at the University of Tennessee- Martin, we played at Tennessee Tech for three straight games, and we didn’t wash our uniforms. We only had one set. We played because we loved the game. We didn’t think anything about it.”

On April 18, 2012, Summitt stepped down as head coach for the Lady Vols and accepted the role of head coach emeritus, leaving the head coach position to Summitt’s assistant Holly Warlick. Summitt was able to still interact with the players and watch practices. This decision came one year ago when she announced that she was diagnosed with early-onset dementia.

At the end of Summitt’s career, she ended with career highs that made men’s basketball teams want her as a coach. Summit in total had eight national titles, 16 conference tournament titles, 18 Final Four appearances; teams in every NCAA women’s tournament since its inception in 1981, and a college degree for every player.

Not only was she a legend on the court, she was a legend in extending Title 9 to women sports. On June 23, 1972, President Nixon signed Title IX into law. This new law was a victory for women because under Title IX, it prohibits discrimination in any educational program or activity receiving any type of federal financial aid, which lacked during Summitt’s early coaching days.

According to the NCAA, There are three basic parts of Title IX for athletic programs: Participation, scholarships and other benefits.

For participation, women and men have equal opportunities to participate in a sport, but do not require colleges to offer identical sports. For athletic scholarships, both women and men receive money proportional to their participation. For other benefits:

“Title IX requires the equal treatment of female and male student-athletes in the provisions of: (a) equipment and supplies; (b) scheduling of games and practice times; (c) travel and daily allowance/per diem; (d) access to tutoring; (e) coaching, (f) locker rooms, practice and competitive facilities; (g) medical and training facilities and services; (h) housing and dining facilities and services; (i) publicity and promotions; (j) support services and (k) recruitment of student-athletes.”

A renowned female coach will be forever remembered in the game of basketball and her legacy will be forever engraved in women’s hearts for helping with Title IX.

Written by: Samantha Meisenburg, Public Relations major and Women’s Center Intern Summer ’16.




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