(Photo from google images)
Carol Stiff was a former college basketball player who was a program planner for ESPN in May of 1994. Stiff needed to fill a women’s game spot with a Big East team on Martin Luther King Day in 1995. She made the phone call that forever changed women’s college basketball.
After the previous NCAA Women’s champions, North Carolina, turned down Stiff’s offer to play the UConn Huskies on MLK day in 1995, her next call was to the University of Tennessee. Coach Pat Summitt was known for being willing to play anyone, anywhere and anytime. Summitt knew the women’s game needed more televised games to grow the sport. Summitt told Stiff, “For the good of the game, I’ll do it”.
For the good of the game was an understatement! In 1995, ESPN was the only network who televised 23 regular-season women’s basketball games. In 2020, ESPN and their streaming platforms now feature over 2,250 women’s games.
From 1995 to 2007 The Lady Vols have played the Huskies 22 times home, away and all over the country. UConn leads the series 13-9. In Summitt’s book “Sum It Up” Pat said “it made everyone better” about the UConn rivalry.
In 2007, Summitt ended the regular season game after their third straight win over UConn. While Summitt never clearly said why she ended the rivalry it is highly speculated that it was due to Geno’s recruiting violations involving Maya Moore.
Pat Summitt’s 38-year coaching career ended with eight National Championships, 18 Final Four appearances, 16 SEC Championships and SEC tournament championships, eight SEC Coach of the year awards, named NCAA Coach of the year seven times and the list goes on and on. But two of the most impressive accomplishments are Coach Summitt having every Lady Vol player who completed their eligibility at Tennessee played in at least one Elite Eight game and every single one of her players who completed their eligibility graduated with a degree. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.
The truth about the Geno/Pat rivalry is that Geno Auriemma had never won a National Championship until he played Pat Summitt. Pat made Geno become, Geno. Pat made every player she coached, every player she coached against and every kid who watched her on TV better. Pat Summitt wasn’t just the greatest gift to women’s college basketball, she was the greatest gift to women’s sports.
In 2011, Pat Summitt was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and passed away on June 28, 2016. Geno Auriemma attended her funeral and was one of the first donors to the Pat Summitt Foundation to fight Alzheimer’s. Tonight’s game will be the 23rd meeting between the 23rd ranked Lady Vols and the 3rd ranked Huskies during We Back Pat Week. For the good of the game, I hope you will watch.
For more information on how you can help support the Pat Summitt Foundation visit: