Speeches & Floor Statements

Floor Remarks of U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) : Pat Summitt

April 18, 2012 - April 18, 2012

Today the University of Tennessee, where I was once president, announced that our basketball coach, Pat Summitt is resigning after 38 years in that position. Women's college basketball will never be the same without Pat Summitt and women's college basketball would never be what it is today if it weren't for Pat Summitt.


There will be much said about her winning record and it's an astonishing accomplishment: 1,098 wins in basketball, more than any other coach--man or woman--in the sport; 8 National Championships in the Southeastern Conference; 32 Southeastern Conference titles; 31 straight trips to the NCAA tournament.


But the statistic that I always valued most, especially when I was president of the University, was every single one of Pat Summitt's athletes who have completed their eligibility with her have graduated from the University of Tennessee. That's over 38 years. So she has a remarkable record for which we all are very grateful.


It's hard for people outside of Tennessee to understand how much Pat Summitt has become a part of the lives of so many citizens in our state. She actually was asked by the University to take over the basketball program when she was in her early twenties. It was in 1974. Back then, many women's basketball games were played with three women on one end and three women on the other end. The offense and the defense. She changed all that in a big-time way. And when I say that women's college basketball wouldn't be the same without her, I really mean that because almost every women's coach in America would attest to the fact that Pat Summitt has played an important either model or personal role in their development. Even before big games, she would have over to her house in Knoxville the opposing team and the opposing coach.


She always had time for community events in Knoxville, and despite her busy schedule as such a winning coach. She is a terrific person individually and a great model. She really taught many of us in Tennessee the game of women's college basketball. And she was so up front and personal about it, with her famous stare which could stare anybody down, and her discussion of these extraordinary athletes she had and what their pluses were and what the things were that they had to work on, that we all felt we not only knew her, we knew the athletes as well.


I've enjoyed watching Pat Summitt’s teams for many, many years. I made a point to watch three of her games in person this year in Knoxville. I arranged my Senate schedule around it because I feared that this might be her last season. She announced last year she has Alzheimer's disease and she is now devoting herself to fighting that disease.


So I’m sure she'll be as accomplished in some appropriate way in the next stage of her life as she has been in the last 38 years. But I wanted to come to the senate floor and say, really on behalf of all the people of our state, that women's college basketball will never be the same without Pat Summitt and women's college basketball would never be what it is today if it weren't for Pat Summitt.


Mr. Lieberman: I just want to thank my friend for his moving and eloquent statement. As the senator from Connecticut, a proud fan and admirer of U. Conn. women's basketball with the great coach, Geno Auriemma, there’s probably no one who appreciates someone like Coach Summitt more than those who have competed against her, including Coach Auriemma and the great players in the U. Conn. women's basketball history. So she sets the standard and she has set the standard, and I join you in your praise of her and, with some confidence, in wishing her well in the future.


Mr. Alexander: Mr. President, I thank Senator Lieberman. I think it's appropriate and most fans of women's college basketball would agree that the first two senators on the floor to commend Pat Summitt would be the senator from Tennessee and the senator from Connecticut.
Mr. Lieberman: It's fortuitous and I can't believe it's accidental.

Mr. Alexander: I thank the senator for his generous remarks and I know Pat would as well.


Mr. Lieberman: If Geno Auriemma were here he would have at least echoed what I had to say and added some great stories and words of tribute because I know the respect Coach Auriemma has for Coach Summitt. I yield the floor and I suggest the absence of a quorum.