The Story in the Number

This article is more than 16 years old.

The number is 880, and some of the story is in the number.

As of Tuesday night, no basketball coach has guided a team to more wins than Pat Summit of Tennessee. Dean Smith is now second.

There are lots of other impressive numbers associated with Pat Summit's coaching career. Her teams have built a winning percentage of .837; since the women's tournament began in 1982, Tennessee has appeared in every one of them and built a record of eighty seven wins against just 17 losses; the Vols have never lost in round one or round two. Summit's teams haven't been just consistent; they've been consistently excellent.

Tennessee proudly trumpets another number: the graduation rate for summit's players who have stayed at Tennessee throughout their eligibility and, as the public relations people in Knoxville put it, "honored their commitment," is one hundred percent. The NCAA counts a little differently, but tiffany carpenter, who handles public relations for the athletic department at Tennessee, maintains that the figure for Tennessee's basketball-playing females last season was seventy five percent only

Because when Tasha Butts exhausted her eligibility, she told coach summit that she was going to drop out to play in the WNBA.

"No," summit explained. "My graduation rate is 100 percent, and you're not going to spoil it." Summit made Butts a graduate assistant, and this year, according to tiffany carpenter, butts is finishing her degree.

But perhaps the most extraordinary numbers associated with pat summit's achievement are the ones that remind us where she and her program and women's college basketball in general were when summit took the job at Tennessee 30 years ago. Now, of course, the women's game provides scholarships, fills gyms with paying customers and generates a sizeable TV. audience, and sends a new class of talented players to the WNBA each summer.
When Pat Summit won her first game at Tennessee on January 10th, 1975, the number of scholarship athletes on her team was zero, and the fans in the seats numbered 53.

This program aired on March 23, 2005. The audio for this program is not available.

Bill Littlefield Twitter Host, Only A Game
Bill Littlefield was the host of Only A Game from 1993 until 2018.