Summitt earned an Honorary Doctorate from the Academy in 2008.
Pat Summitt recalls a year ago during a critical moment in a University of Tennessee women’s basketball game she called a timeout and then was unable to summon the play she wanted the Lady Vols to run.
It was one of several memory lapses the 59-year-old Summitt suffered last season. In May, she decided to undergo a battery of tests at the Mayo Clinic and discovered she had early-onset dementia (Alzheimer’s type).
The seemingly unbeatable coach now has an incurable brain disease. However, when Summitt revealed the diagnosis in August, she vowed to fight it, raise awareness and keep coaching. Summitt is the winner of the United States Sports Academy’s 2011 Mildred “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias Courage Award.
The seemingly unbeatable coach now has an incurable brain disease. However, when Summitt revealed the diagnosis in August, she vowed to fight it, raise awareness and keep on coaching. For her indomitable spirit, Summitt is the United States Sports Academy’s 2011 Mildred “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias Courage Award recipient.
The 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.
Summitt has won more games than any other college coach in history, men’s or women’s. Despite struggling both mentally and physically with her undiagnosed condition last season, she guided Tennessee to a 34-3 record, swept the Southeastern Conference regular season and tournament titles, and reached the NCAA tournament region finals. Summitt’s unmatched success includes 1,037 career victories against 196 losses; 18 Final Fours; and eight national championships, including consecutive titles in 2007 and 2008.
Summitt, who has coached Tennessee for 38 years, plans to coach at least three more years, if possible. She also plans to act as a spokeswoman for Alzheimer’s, which has no cure, destroys recall and cognitive abilities over time and afflicts an estimated 5 million Americans.