UT students on Summitt: sadness, support and admiration

From die-hard sports fans to those indifferent to athletics, University of Tennessee students expressed sadness at the decision of Lady Vols basketball coach Pat Summitt to step down.

Some were surprised that the legendary coach did not continue on, while others said they felt it was the right decision at the right time.

But without exception, they voiced their support for her decision and admiration for all she has accomplished.

"I think it is shocking," said Rachel Wallace, a sophomore in American studies from Morristown. "I thought she might coach for at least one more year. She may need to retire now for her health, but this is going to be a big loss for the Lady Vols."

Summitt coached the Lady Vols for 38 years, won eight national championships and 1,098 games.

But last August, Summitt disclosed that she had been diagnosed with early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type, and was taking steps and medicine to slow the progression of the disease. She planned to continue coaching for as long as she could, and had the support of university officials.

David Bartley, a junior majoring in logistics, grew up in Knoxville and began attending Lady Vols' games with his parents as a kid.

"She is an amazing coach, and has been a hero to all students, not just sports fans and athletes, and has been an inspiration to everybody" Bartley said. "But this was probably the appropriate time for her. It's sad to see her go."

Alex Hallam, a doctoral student in philosophy from Denver, said he was aware of Summitt through national sports media coverage. When he moved to Knoxville, he got a first hand look at "what a strong figure she is in the community at large."

"She is going out on top, and I think this is a good idea," Hallam said. "Go out on a high note when you go."

"This is certainly going to be the end of an era," said Ben Williamson, a sophomore accounting major from Knoxville. "I'm very supportive of her decision, and if this is her best interests, I am sure it is what the community wants for her."

Natalie Walker, a freshman nursing student from Clarksville, said she does not follow sports very much, but was always aware that Summitt was held in high regard for many reasons.

"This is probably a good thing for her, and will mean less pressure on her," Walker said.

Molly Hunt, a junior from Maryville who is majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology, is not a big sports fan. But she is a fan of Summitt for other reasons.

"I admire her for the way she pushes academics, and it is sad to see her step down," Hunt said. "She is the only sports coach that I know I can fully admire."

"I think it is sad, but that it is the right time for her to leave," said Grant Caldwell of Clarksville, a communications and religious studies major. "She leaves a great legacy, and not just in sports. I am proud to go to the college that has people like that."

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Comments » 1

VolnPickwick writes:

All great things will come to an end. We all knew this was going to happen but the reality still is hard. Coach Summitt is and always will be an icon, not only at UT but for the state of Tennessee as well. Thank you for all the great memories, that feeling that the Lady Vols could win every ball game they played is one that is not likely to be duplicated. If I had to guess, I would bet she would tell you her greatest achievement would be her graduation percentage, and raising her son. Maybe not in that order. I will always be a Pat Summitt fan and admirer, best of luck to you coach, God bless and Go Vols!

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