Thursday, May 3, 2012

Sports Illustrated on Pat Summitt

Posted by on Thu, May 3, 2012 at 5:17 AM

Pat Summitt in action
  • Pat Summitt in action
Over at Sports Illustrated, there's a really nice piece looking at the tremendous accomplishments of Lady Vols Coach Emeritus Pat Summitt, examining how her career highlights the important changes that have taken place in women's athletics since the implementation of Title IX.

It's local legend that Summitt's annual salary when she was hired to take over the Lady Vols in 1974 at the age of 22 was $8,900 a year. And, in addition to coaching and attending classes while working toward her master's degree, she drove the team van, washed the uniforms and coordinated fundraising efforts for the program.

And now, Pat Summitt is one of the greatest basketball coaches — men's or women's — in the history of the game.

It is a shame that it takes a law to ensure women are given the same opportunities as men, but it's hard to argue that Pat Summitt being freed up to coach was somehow worse than Pat Summitt having to coach, do laundry, drive the team van, and fund-raise.

We have all been fortunate enough to witness an amazing career. And no matter how talented Summitt is, her career would not have happened like this if the Feds hadn't stepped in and said, "You have to fund girly stuff at the same level you fund the non-girly stuff."

I think often of my Grandma Doris, who was told she couldn't play basketball because it wasn't ladylike, even though her own mother had played and loved it. (There was some weird backlash/regression in women's rights between their generations.) She's lived long enough to see the tide turned from "no, you can't play" to "this woman is one of the best basketball coaches ever."

There's a lot of rhetoric about how the government doesn't really fix things. But I think that's overlooking how federal laws have fixed things and improved the status of women and other minorities tremendously.

Is anyone in Tennessee really going to argue that Tennessee and/or Pat Summitt would have been better off not having the opportunity to play and then coach basketball?

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