DAPHNE, Ala. — The United States Sports Academy is mourning the loss of legendary University of Tennessee (UT) women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt, the winningest coach in NCAA basketball history.
Summitt died 28 June 2016 at age 64 after a five-year battle with dementia associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
The Academy awarded Summitt an honorary doctorate in 2008 (presented in 2009) for her exceptional career as a coach and leader, and honored her again in 2011 with its Mildred “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias Courage Award after she vowed to continue coaching after being diagnosed at age 59 with dementia.
The Academy’s Courage Award is presented annually to an individual who demonstrates courageous action in overcoming adversity to excel in sport. This individual should exhibit the qualities of courage, perseverance, grace, and strength in sport achievement. Zaharias’ spirit and zest for life, as well as her courage, strength, and achievement, are the qualities for which this award is named. The Babe’s fight to overcome life-threatening cancer and then return to the winner’s circle in women’s professional golf has withstood the test of time.
For nearly four decades, the UT Lady Vol basketball program has been among the nation’s elite and has changed the way women’s collegiate basketball is perceived across the country. Over 38 years as UT head coach, Summitt won 84 percent of her games and produced a win-loss record of 1,098-208, the most victories of any coach in NCAA basketball history, male or female. Her Lady Vols won eight NCAA titles as well as a combined 32 Southeastern Conference (SEC) tournament and regular season championships.
Summitt was a seven-time NCAA Coach of the Year, an eight-time SEC Coach of the Year, and her teams made 18 Final Four appearances, the most among all Division I coaches, male or female. Summitt played on the U.S.A.’s silver medal team at the 1976 Olympic Summer Games in Montreal and coached the U.S.A.’s team to a gold medal at the 1984 Olympic Summer Games in Los Angeles, becoming the first person in U.S. Olympic basketball history to play on and coach medal-winning teams.
Under Summitt, Tennessee made an unprecedented 31 consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament and produced 12 Olympians, 20 Kodak All-Americans, and 77 All-SEC performers. Summitt’s student-athletes held a 100 percent graduation rate for all Lady Vols who completed their eligibility at Tennessee.
On Aug. 23, 2011, Summitt bravely revealed her diagnosis and battle with early onset dementia associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Just three months later, she announced the formation of the Pat Summitt Foundation Fund, with the proceeds going toward cutting-edge research in the fight against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Summitt concluded a 38-year tenure at the helm of the Lady Vols on April 18, 2012, having coached a full season after being diagnosed and winning the SEC Tournament in her final year as a coach. UT finished the 2012 season losing to No. 1-ranked Baylor while battling for a spot in the NCAA Final Four.
Summitt earned numerous awards for her success on the basketball court and for her courage, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom; the Lifetime Achievement Award from the President’s Council on Physical Fitness; the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) Michael J. Cleary Merit of Honor Award; and the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. The Sporting News named her the 11th best coach in history on its 50 Greatest Coaches of All-Time list. She is a member of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. In 2000 she was named the Naismith Coach of the Century. She was named the 2011 Sports Illustrated Sportswoman of the Year. Basketball courts at the University of Tennessee and the University of Tennessee-Martin are named in her honor.
Summitt was born June 14, 1952, in Clarksville, Tenn., and attended the University of Tennessee-Martin, where she was an All-America basketball player and earned her bachelor’s degree in physical education. She earned her master’s degree in physical education from UT.
Based in Daphne, Ala., the United States Sports Academy is an independent, non-profit, accredited, special mission sports university created to serve the nation and world with programs in instruction, research, and service. The role of the Academy is to prepare men and women for careers in the profession of sports. For more information about the Academy, call (251) 626-3303 or visit www.ussa.edu.