For 38 seasons and counting, Patricia “Pat” Head Summitt has been at the reigns of the University of Tennessee’s Women’s Basketball team.
Summitt was named the 16th head coach when she was just 22 years old, and only slightly older than the players on her team.
In the early days, Summitt earned $8,900 annually and operated the team on a “shoe string” budget. Back then the games weren’t televised; there wasn’t a generous booster club or 300,000 loyal fans breaking attendance records each season. Instead, Summitt washed player uniforms, drove the team to games, and was determined to build a tradition.
Gradually Summitt built the program into a women’s basketball powerhouse. She has won a record eight NCAA National Championships, and last night brought home a 16th SEC Tournament Championship. Not to mention Summitt stands as the all-time winningest college coach in NCAA basketball history with 1,095 games.
In the 2010-2011 Equity in Athletics data from the U.S. Department of Education, the total expenses for the 14-participant women’s basketball team was$ 5,892,060 ($76,243 per participant), and its total revenues were $4,958,365. While the 18-participant men’s basketball team $13,785,893 earnings surpassed the women’s team, its $6,863,233 expenses ($75,781 per participant) were comparable; thus demonstrating that Summitt has succeeded in establishing gender equity at Tennessee.
No coach has demonstrated a bigger influence on women’s basketball than Summitt.
74 coaches in the professional, collegiate, and high school levels have trained under Summitt. This figure includes 46 former players, 16 former graduate assistants, six assistant coaches, three basketball operations directors, and three managers.
And her players have been inspiring girls and boys to follow their dreams for decades. 44 Lady Vols have played professionally, including Candace Parker, Tamika Catchings, and Ashley Robinson who are among the 11 Lady Vols that played during the 2011 WNBA season.
What’s even more remarkable about Summitt is that her reach goes far beyond Knoxville.
Just look at me. I met Summitt for the first and only time during the summer of 1994 at her annual basketball camp. The coaching staff that summer was a women’s basketball “who’s who” - Nikki Caldwell, Holly Warlick, Mickie DeMoss, Carolyn Peck, and Nikki McCray.
In a quiet moment between drills, I asked Summitt what someone like me could do in order to get recognized by college coaches. Summitt smiled and shared her advice as if I was one of her players; that summer with Summitt and the Lady Vols sparked my love of basketball.
There are countless other girls, boys, men, and women who are also diehard women’s basketball fans; and someway somehow Summitt’s influence on the game has impacted them.
No one knows how long Summitt will be on the bench instilling her values of hard work, and preparation; her “million dollar” contract expires in 2014. But we all know it will be Summitt and only Summitt who decides when it’s time to walk away.
Good Night Sports Fans,