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Just The Sports: Worth Every Penny

Just The Sports

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Worth Every Penny

Tennessee women's basketball head coach Pat Summitt is finally getting the financial recognition she so greatly deserves. It is only fitting that Summitt would be the pioneer among women's college basketball head coaches in terms of salary compensation because she was the pioneer for the sport as a whole. When she took over the Tennessee program at the age of 22, women's college basketball was even more of an afterthought than it is today.

To put the state of women's college basketball into perspective, at the time of Summitt's hiring there was no NCAA tournament for the women as there was for men's college basketball . It would not be until 1982 when the inaugural NCAA women's tournament was held. Instead, women's college basketball's champion was crowned by the Conference on Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (1969-71), the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (1972-82), and the Women's National Invitation Tournament (1969-present), three tournaments which, needless to say, did not garner the attention that an NCAA-sponsored tournament would.

Since its infancy, women's college basketball has evolved in many ways. Parity, while still not great, is starting to take hold as evidenced by Maryland winning the 2006 NCAA Tournament and Baylor winning the 2005 NCAA Tournament. Also, with the advent of the WNBA in 1996, women's college basketball is no longer a dead-end for the players' stateside careers. Now, instead of only having international basketball careers as an option, women's players can use their playing experience as a jumping-off point to a professional career in the United States.

Still, through all the changes, there has been one constant in terms of success. Pat Summitt. During her 32 seasons at the helm, she has amassed 913 wins with an .838 winning percentage, led her teams to 12 SEC tournament titles out of 27, 16 Final Fours, 6 NCAA titles, and has been NCAA Coach of the Year 7 times. Not to mention all the money she has made for the University of Tennessee with all the success of her teams. If there are any numbers worth $1 million, these are the ones. It is only a shame it took this long for the this type of pay raise to occur.


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