Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tennessee Treasure

We've followed Pat Summitt's career from the beginning. We were both students at the University of Tennessee when it all started.

Charlotte remembers talking to the women's basketball team while they were selling donuts to raise money for their travel and uniforms. The team set up at a table outside Alumni Hall, a physical education facility where they played because they did not have their own gymnasium in which to practice or play games. Pat was a graduate student (Charlotte was too) and made $250/month. Pat laundered the team uniforms and drove the van that took them to their games. Meanwhile, the men enjoyed scholarships, travel budgets, high-paid coaches.

When Harriet went to the women's Final Four in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan in 1980, Tennessee lost the title game in an event that has little in common with today's tournaments – fans could walk into the small gym and purchase a ticket on the spot, while music was furnished by local high school pep bands.

It's been so fun and exciting for us to watch the progress of women's basketball over the last decades, and especially Pat Summitt and the Tennessee Lady Vols. Last night as we watched them play in the Elite Eight, it felt like it could be the end of Pat's career as Tennessee Head Coach.

But her influence will live on and on an on. Pat Summitt has done so much to crush the gender hierarchy in sports. There are millions of women across the world whose athletic opportunities are the legacies of Pat Summitt's tireless dedication, hard work, humor, and brilliance.