Pat Summitt, a Chi Omega and famed Tennessee women’s basketball coach, has passed away at the age of 64, after a battle with Alzheimer’s Disease.
According to CNN, “In her 38 years at Tennessee, Summitt won eight national titles and 1,098 games — the most by any Division 1 basketball coach, male or female. Her teams made an unprecedented 31 consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament.”
But while her win record is impressive, there was much, much more to Summitt. When she took over the head coach position in 1974, she was only 22. At the time, women’s basketball was so under-supported, Summitt had to drive players herself to away games. In fact, the sport was not even recognized by the NCAA; Summitt is widely credited with the increased attention to the sport. But more impressive was her insistence that her players also focus on their education; all of the athletes she coached who did not leave the university early to go professional graduated.
Summitt announced her diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s in 2011; she coached for one more year, leading the Lady Vols to their 16th SEC Championship under her leadership. In 2012, after her retirement, Summitt was a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which the highest award that can be given to a civilian in peacetime. The same year, she was honored with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at ESPN’s ESPY Awards. An initiate of the Xi Zeta chapter of Chi Omega at The University of Tennessee-Martin who remained involved with the fraternity by speaking at local and national events, she was also the recipient of the organization’s highest honor, The Malinda Jolley Mortin Woman of Achievement Award, in 1998.
One of her former players, current WNBA star Tamika Catchings, summed up Summitt’s impact on both her players and her sisters in 2013, saying, “”We learned about what it takes to be a leader, what it takes to be a great woman, what it takes to be a great lady, what it takes to have character, what it takes to have poise.”
Rest in peace, sister..