USA TODAY recognized Women’s basketball Volunteers legend Pat Summitt.
There’s no doubting that Pat Summitt is one of the most legendary figures in sports and particularly women’s sports. As a result, it should be no surprise that the Tennessee Lady Vols icon is named among iconic women of the past 100 years.
On Friday, the late women’s basketball head coach, who passed away in 2016, received such an honor. To celebrate the 100-year anniversary of women receiving the right to vote, which will take place Aug. 18, USA TODAY is recognizing 100 women of the last 100 years in a series entitled “Women of the Century.”
Of course, in the sports section, Pat Summitt was on that list. She was among 12 people overall from that section, including Ann Bancroft, Simone Biles, Bessie Coleman, Babe Didrikson, Althea Gibson, Florence Griffith Joyner, Billy Jean King, Ibtihaj Muhammad, Wilma Rudolph and Serena and Venus Williams. Here’s a bit of what was written about Summitt.
She began in Knoxville as a 22-year-old graduate student who had to drive the team van but eventually would lead a powerhouse program that played in sold-out arenas on national TV. She also directed Team USA to Olympic gold in 1984 in Los Angeles.
Given the other people on the list, the towering UT figure is obviously in great company. She earned every bit of the recognition too. Very few people, if any, were more single-handedly responsible for uplifting their own sport than Summitt.
When she took over the Tennessee women’s basketball program in 1974-1975, the sport hadn’t even been recognized yet by the NCAA. By the time she retired due to her illness, it was the third most popular sport or better on most college campuses and the WNBA had been in existence for over a decade.
That was all due to Summitt. She had her own personal accomplishments as well, including being the first coach in men’s or women’s college basketball to reach 1,000 wins and coming away with eight national championships.
One of the most impressive things about Pat Summitt was her rejecting the offer to be the men’s basketball head coach multiple times because she was so focused on building up women’s basketball. That is a big reason the sport is where it is today, and for that, she deserves every bit of recognition on this list.