Pat Head Summit
“Pat had a passion for the game, a passion for the sport, was a great leader, always wanted to make sure everyone was in a position to win,” Warlick said. “One thing about Pat is that she wanted women to be able to have the (same) opportunities as men in any sport. I think Pat went above and beyond the call of duty. to put women first and sport.
“Everything was always the best for the game and I have so much respect for Pat for that. I don’t care how many games she won. She was extremely humble. But you know what? The minute you finish this game is forever ‘OK, how are we going to get the next one?‘ There’s only one team that’s happy at the end of the year, and you just pray to win. Because it’s miserable. You work hard in the summer, but the minute we won a championship, she said, ‘How are we going to win the next one?’ Her dynamism, her passion just separated her from everyone.
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“I think it’s important to know that Pat Head Summitt had a passion for the University of Tennessee and that fueled a lot of what she was ready to do and a lot of what she wanted to do for this campus” , Thomas said. “It wasn’t just women’s sport. She was talking to football rookies and basketball rookies and golf rookies and swimming rookies or whoever it was for male coaches. They had a camaraderie that was really special.
“I remember we were recruiting a basketball player from Ohio, who was also a huge college football fan. I don’t know if it was Holly or who it was, but someone said: ‘Hey, Donna, will you see if we can skip so much at football practice?’ I called football and I said, ‘Can we bring this rookie to training? Yes, bring him, bring as many people as you want, where is he from? And I said , Ohio. At the end of practice, all the football players from Ohio State came to introduce themselves to her and welcome her to campus. So the kid signed. That’s that kind interaction that was really special.
Chiles: “A lot of people don’t know this, but I wasn’t going to play softball in college. I was following my brothers and their basketball recruiting. And what I didn’t see was that I didn’t want to play nice. I wanted to get dirty, I wanted to get serious and I wanted to win. I wanted to be pushed like my brothers were on the pitch. And it was the one place where I felt like I was respected as a female athlete, where I would be pushed to succeed and pushed to win. And it wasn’t just from my coaches, the Weeklys, it was everywhere. Probably like most people during my visit, they say, “What do you want to do? I said, ‘I want to meet Pat Summitt.‘ I knew what she stood for. I was already coming to Tennessee on a college scholarship.
“And then the Weeklys arrived in their orange and white to watch a game and I wonder what are they doing here? But my brothers and recruitment, it was a family. It was a family decision. These coaches would come and sit on the couch and say, “We’re going to take care of your son. And UT was the only place that really spoke to all of us as a family and said, “We’re going to take care of your daughter, but we’re going to allow her to express herself to compete and win.” And it was huge for me if I was to continue athletics. I just wanted a level playing field and from Pat Summitt to the Weeklys to John Cronan, everyone made that clear. You’re here, we’ll take care of you, but we want to win. And that’s really all I could ask for.
“I would like to add just to continue talking about the influence of Pat Summitt, it was a standard that was set, and she was not only so influential to the coaches, but to all of it Lady Vol athletes. I will share a story It would have been my freshman year and at that time for softball you were playing it seemed like 100 games a season Well we lost the game but that was rare We never really lost, but we lost the game, and we showed up and our coaches said, “Come into the arena. Coach Summitt wants to talk to you. And we’re like, what? And it’s been a long walk. Nobody said a word like she could hear us on the trail, but we walked in and sat down at the desk and you know, it had been 20 minutes before she came in. But she let us know that this was not the standard Flight Lady, and that it was personal for her to make sure we d let’s give the best of ourselves every day.
“It wasn’t about basketball. It wasn’t about football, it was about softball, it was about Lady Vol’s legacy and maintaining it and helping it grow. We didn’t lose many more and when we did we were really upset with a loss. But she was very important to me and to my team but to Lady Vol because she was so up to date with all of us and every program and really held us to a higher standard than we held ourselves to many times.
This meeting was organized by the Weeklys. Yes, softball plays a lot of games and losses are scattered throughout the season. But the Weeklys thought the loss didn’t bother the players as much as it should, so they plotted with Summitt. Players probably thought Summitt was looking for the encounter. But then she called in at the request of the Weeklys, who knew Summitt’s voice carried a lot of weight.
While Title IX has brought seismic changes to women’s athletics, its survival is never guaranteed and the law has been challenged and challenged at the local, state and federal levels since its implementation. Attempts to water it down still occur, and institutions across the country are not fully compliant even 50 years later.
“We are very lucky at the University of Tennessee,” Cronan said. “Nationally, I hope universities and schools continue to support and that you don’t need to have this law to do the right thing. Grandmothers and grandfathers want their daughters and granddaughters to have the same experiences as their sons and grandsons. Title IX will last forever. So I think we just have to continue what we’re doing and make it a priority.
“I think that’s the beauty of Title IX. Girls today never remember a time when they weren’t able to participate. This is because they have always been able to participate. Women my age, Holly’s age, there were times when the girls couldn’t participate. The opportunity was not there. The beauty of Title IX, I think the intent of opportunity worked and continues to work because my nieces had the same opportunities as my nephews, and I think that’s what Title IX meant.
“I knew at 12 what I wanted to do, because they wouldn’t let me play Little League baseball. And I hope no other 12-year-old has that feeling that I can’t play, and I’m proud that the University of Tennessee has made a difference in that regard, not just in Knoxville, not just in Tennessee, but across the country and internationally.
Chiles, which owns SlapperNationand teaches young softball players to become slap hitters, gave an impassioned speech about being a Lady Vol.
“Being a Lady Vol is a culture,” Chiles said. “I’m going to take you to church for a sec. In church they say you are not here to sit, you are here to serve. And the message for Lady Vols, the University of Tennessee, and Title IX is that the job is not done yet. And it didn’t happen overnight. There are more ways for us to contribute than being an athlete or a coach.
“It’s our job to continue the legacy and to continue the fight for women’s athletics, for athletics in general. That’s really my message is to find a way to give back to the game and pay for it with something. You don’t have to coach anymore, you don’t have to play anymore, but keep giving back and giving to the next.
“And really, everyone here, thank you, a big thank you for paving the way for me and educating me. It all started with Lady Vol Class. Lady Vol Class set the tone and standard for my first year at the University of Tennessee and hope the culture here can continue to hold the standard and be first.
“When I was here, there was never a moment when two athletes passed each other and didn’t greet each other or when a coach walked past a coach and didn’t greet him or the coach-player interaction, the staff , Faculty. It was a family, and it was a level of respect. It’s our job when we’re on campus, whether we work here or not, to keep everyone up to that standard when they arrive.
“That’s what was created, and it’s my job and our job to continue that legacy and to keep the fight going.