This One Fact About Pat Summitt Shows Just How Committed She Was To The Women She Coached
On the early morning of Tuesday, June 28, legendary women's basketball coach Pat Summitt died at the age of 64 after a battle with early on-set Alzheimer's Disease. The news was confirmed to CNN by her son, Tyler, who released a statement on his mother's death. Summitt was an unmatchable force in college basketball, becoming the winningest Division 1 college basketball coach in history — including both men's and women's teams — leading the Tennessee Lady Vols to eight national titles and 1,098 regular game wins in her 38 years of coaching. Along with great accomplishments in sports, one especially impressive fact about Summitt and her career stands out: every one of the 161 players she coached in her career went on to graduate.
Summitt was more than just a basketball coach and was a force that extended beyond the court. Her son Tyler said in his statement,
She'll be remembered as the all-time winningest D-1 basketball coach in NCAA history, but she was more than a coach to so many — she was a hero and a mentor, especially to me, her family, her friends, her Tennessee Lady Volunteer staff and the 161 Lady Vol student-athletes she coached during her 38-year tenure.
In fact, one of the oft-mentioned facts aside from her basketball statistics is that all of her players graduated, and much of that encouragement came from Summitt's dedication to them in sport and academics. Currently, the NCAA reports that women's basketball student-athletes are graduating at an 89 percent rate, which was a two point increase from the previous year, and African-American female athletes increased five points to 84 percent, meaning that there has been a slow moving upward trend, made possible by NCAA academic reforms and coaches like Summitt. The fact that all of Summitt's students graduated throughout her entire decades long career is astonishing.
Tennessee governor Bill Haslam, one of her close friends, released a statement pointing out the fact that Summitt made certain that the women who played for her "were prepared for life after basketball:"
CBS Sports also notes that Summitt knew details of her players' lives, "demanded that every player sit in the first three rows of their classes," and forbade them to even have one unexcused absence. It was tough love, but it was love, and her incredibly impressive stats in nurturing championship winning players and graduating students says a lot about her fierce commitment to her students. The Los Angeles Times, recounts her 2012 speech announcing her retirement, in which she said,
"I can say for almost four decades, it has been a privilege to make an impact on the lives of 161 women who have worn the orange...We have taken a magnificent journey. We have grown the game of women’s basketball each and every day."
She not only inspired the over 100 young women she coached, but also female athletes in general in a time when women's sports was not thought of as equal. Summitt led by a example, being a tough coach with compassion and heart, a trait that has changed the game of basketball and women's sports forever. According to The Atlantic she once said, "I won 1,098 games, and eight national championships, and coached in four different decades. But what I see are not the numbers. I see their faces."
This says everything about the coach and woman Pat Summitt was and will be remembered as.