pat
Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Mention UT in this part of the country and everyone knows you are speaking of the University of Tennessee. Travel farther south and UT means the University of Texas. Add women's basketball to UT and two women coaches enter the picture. For many years before a male coach at the University of Connecticut came on the scene, Pat Summitt and Jody Conradt were the two fierce competitors fans cheered when their teams clashed on the court.

In the August issue of Texas Monthly magazine, a long interview with Jody Conradt appeared. After coaching the UT women's basketball team for 31 years, she has retired. Before coming to the main campus in Austin in 1976 she coached four years at Sam Houston University and then moved to UT Arlington for three years.

After 38 years of coaching college women's basketball, she said she had watched the program go from obscurity to a time when it had lots of visibility. One of the highlights of those years was 1987 when tickets for the Final Four women's tournament for the first time ever were sold-out. To the question of why she was retiring she said, "I thought it would be fun to have my own life back, to control my schedule, to not be in a situation that's so stressful."

Shortly after reading that interview came the news that Pat Summitt was making a change in her life too. After 27 years her marriage was ending in divorce.

Conradt is 11 years older than Summitt but both women found happiness in basketball from their early teens and were stars in high school and college before coaching became their life's work. Both built their successful careers in the state where they were proud native daughters.

In 1986 Texas won the NCAA Division l women's basketball tournament and that season they had the first undefeated season in the history of NCAA women's basketball. Then in 1987 Tennessee was the Division I winner.

Conradt held the record as the winningest coach until Summitt tied with her 788th win in 2001-02. With 880 wins in the 2003-04 season Summitt took that title.

Both women have been honored with similar awards for their excellence as coaches. They have been inducted into many Halls of Fame. Both were in the inaugural class of 26 when the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame opened in 1999.

Texas didn't make the NCAA tournament for the second straight year last season and Conradt said she wished her career had ended differently. She said, "There's a standard at the University of Texas. Everybody's expectations are that you have to be number one or better."

The interviewer asked if the pressure at UT was different from the pressure at other schools and even though Conradt answered she didn't think there was any question about that, Tennessee fans wouldn't agree.

Summing up those 38 years of coaching, Conradt said she has seen a negative change in attitude. "Kids used to be excited just to have the opportunity to play. Now I see more of a mentality of entitlement: 'I'm a tremendous athlete, so you owe me this. I should get this because of my talent.'"

Summitt must have seen that same trend at UT but she faces another negative that is just emerging. During 35 years of Title IX the total number of women's intercollegiate teams exploded from 3,495 in 1977 to 8,702 last year. In that same period the number of women coaches has steadily declined.

Title IX gave women athletes many more opportunities but it also made coaching women's teams much more attractive to men. The law explicitly covered the gender ratio of the student population. The system helped the female athletes but failed female coaches.

Lady Vol fans will never fail Pat Summitt.

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