In part one of this series about the legendary coach Pat Summitt – we will give you a full biography of her career and achievements: enjoy!
For four decades, the University of Tennessee Lady Vol basketball program has been among the nation’s elite and, in the process, has changed the way women’s collegiate hoops is perceived across the country.
No one did a better job of managing what goes on inside the 94×50 rectangle known as a collegiate basketball court than the UT legend. Her unfathomable victories, eight NCAA Championships and 32 combined Southeastern Conference titles speak to her incredible management and mastery of the 4,700 square feet of round ball real estate. And few have even come close to accomplishing what she did outside the lines for those 38 years as head coach (1974-2012). To her peers, she is forthright, well-respected, ethical, and a winner who serves as a shining example in the sport of collegiate basketball and beyond.
“She” is Pat Head Summitt, head coach emeritus of the University of Tennessee Lady Volunteer basketball team, who concluded a 38-year tenure at the helm of the Lady Vols on April 18, 2012, with a 1,098-208 overall record after raising the bar in the collegiate basketball world every time she stepped out on the court.
On Aug. 23, 2011, Summitt may have raised the bar on courage, as she bravely revealed the toughest opponent she will ever have to battle, early onset dementia, “Alzheimer’s Type,” after the doctors at the Mayo Clinic diagnosed her at the age of 59. To be sure, Summitt took on this invisible opponent with her signature game plan.
The Tennessee skipper didn’t look at it as a bold move; rather continuing her lifelong practice of both herself and her program being an open book.
UT finished the year losing to No. 1-ranked Baylor while battling for a spot in the NCAA Final Four. The Lady Vols were stopped just short of their goal of cutting down nets in Denver, site of the 2012 Final Four.
All season long, all eyes were on Summitt and her team. They were greeted in arenas nationwide with standing-ovation tributes to Summitt, as she guided her team through the nation’s toughest schedule while playing in front of a sea of “We Back Pat” t-shirts.
The “We Back Pat” campaign sprang up overnight and went viral in the social media world following Summitt’s medical announcement. A t-shirt was born with the slogan, and proceeds started pouring into Summitt-picked organizations, Alzheimer’s Tennessee and the University of Tennessee Medical Center.
In November 2011, Summitt announced the formation of her foundation, the Pat Summitt Foundation Fund, with the proceeds going toward cutting-edge research. On May 31, 2012, the Southeastern Conference and its member institutions announced an incredibly-generous contribution, donating $100,000 to the effort. On June 13, 2012, NASCAR driver and Knoxville native Trevor Bayne, in conjunction with YourRaceCar.com, announced he would be driving a “We Back Pat” themed car in the Aug. 24 Nationwide Series Food City 250 race in Bristol to help raise awareness for the foundation. The site of the race, Bristol Motor Speedway, also announced that Summitt would be serving as grand marshal and commanding the drivers to “start your engines.”
Summitt received a $1000 donation from Food City for her foundation, and YourRace.Car.com helped raise more than $10,000 for the cause from the “We Back Pat” car and merchandise sales. Tennessee Titans owner K.S. “Bud” Adams also aided the foundation, as he contributed $25,000 on Sept. 9, 2012. On that date, he also had Summitt serve as the esteemed “12th Titan” at the NFL franchise’s season opener vs. New England. Many more recognitions and donations have followed since then.
In announcing her diagnosis in August of 2011, Pat was being just Pat, but a number of organizations hailed her courage to come forward.
The United States Sports Academy awarded Summitt its 2011 Mildred “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias Courage Award for her indomitable spirit in her public battle with early-onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type. On Oct. 4, it was announced that Summitt would receive the 2011 Maggie Dixon Courage Award. Also in October, The Huffington Post named Summitt a 2011 Game Changer – an innovator, leader and role model who is changing the way we look at the world and the way we live in it. The Tennessee Communication Association selected Summitt for its most prestigious award, Communicator of the Year.
The honors continued. Among those was Summitt being announced by President Barack Obama as the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom on April 19, 2012, and honored at the White House on May 29. She also earned a Lifetime Achievement Award from the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, Sports & Nutrition on May 3 and was named a member of the U.S. Department of State’s Council to Empower Women and Girls Through Sports on June 21. Additionally, she has been announced as the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame’s 2012 Tennessean of the Year, the winner of the 2012 Pop Warner Female Achievement Award and the 2012 Global ATHENA Leadership Award, the recipient of NACDA’s 2012 Michael J. Cleary Merit of Honor Award and the recipient of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, which was presented to her by former Vol and current NFL quarterback Peyton Manning after a poignant video tribute on July 11 at the 2012 ESPYs in Los Angeles.
Recognition continued to come Summitt’s way in summer 2012, as she received the Billie Jean King Legacy Award, presented by the USTA in New York, the UT Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumna Award and the Knoxville Association of Women Executives Notable Woman Award. The Billie Jean King Legacy Award honors individuals whose outstanding courage and contributions have helped to change the global cultural landscape.
The incomparable Summitt built collegiate basketball’s “hoopdom” at Tennessee. A program developed tirelessly, diligently and successfully by Summitt, her staff and the 161 student-athletes who were fortunate enough to don the orange and white jerseys of the Tennessee Lady Volunteers during her tenure.
A review of Summitt’s résumé shows she kept her elite program in the winner’s circle for almost four decades, producing a mind-boggling record of 1,098-208 (.840) that included the most victories in NCAA basketball. During her tenure, the Lady Vols won eight NCAA titles as well as a combined 32 Southeastern Conference tournament and regular season championships.
Tennessee made an unprecedented 31 consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament and produced 12 Olympians, 34 WNBA players, 21 WBCA/Kodak/State Farm All-Americans earning 36 honors, and 39 All-SEC players earning 82 recognitions.
Along with the success on the court, Summitt’s student-athletes had tremendous productivity in the classroom. Coach Summitt held a 100 percent graduation rate for all Lady Vols who completed their eligibility at Tennessee.
Her honors and achievements over the years number in the hundreds. The Sporting News named the 50 Greatest Coaches of All-Time. Summitt was voted the 11th best of all-time and was the only woman on the list. She was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame on June 5, 1999, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on October 13, 2000, and the FIBA Hall of Fame on June 19, 2013. Other accolades include a resolution by the U.S. House of Representatives on June 5, 2009; an honorary doctorate from the United States Sports Academy on May 19, 2009; receiving the 2009 WNBA Inspiring Coach Award on April 7, 2009, and being honored by her peers with the RUSSELL ATHLETIC/WBCA Victory Club Award for 1,000 career wins on April 6, 2009. She was inducted as the third member of the Tennessee Women’s Hall of Fame on June 17, 2011, and was announced on Dec. 5 as the 2011 Sports Illustrated Sportswoman of the Year alongside 2011 Sportsman of the Year, Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Much like the Presidential Medal of Freedom, a couple of other honors recognized her career longevity and the impact she has made on sports and American culture. On May 17, 2012, the Women’s Sports Foundation/espnw/Women in Cable Telecommunications observed the 40-year anniversary of Title IX by creating a 40 FOR 40 list of those who have been key figures in the growth of women’s sports. Summitt, of course, was on that list. The NCAA also honored her legacy, and that of UCLA men’s basketball coaching great John Wooden, by naming a room in its new Myles Brand headquarters building the Summitt-Wooden Room on June 19, 2012.
ESPN paid tribute to her impact on women in sports during the summer of 2013, creating the documentary film, “Pat XO,” for its Nine for IX series. ABC’s Robin Roberts was the executive producer of the film, which was screened at a private event in the Regal Riviera Theatre in downtown Knoxville on June 26 and made its ESPN world television premiere on July 9.
The University of Tennessee also honored Summitt in three additional ways in 2013. First, she was inducted into the Lady Vol Hall of Fame on Nov. 2. Next, her banner was raised to the rafters in Thompson-Boling Arena on Jan. 28. Then, on Nov. 22, the Pat Summitt Plaza and Statue (created by renowned sculptor David Adickes of Houston, Texas) were dedicated at the corner of Lake Loudoun Blvd. and Phillip Fulmer Way.