Friday, March 25, 2005

'The Summitt' name will stick to UT's court

KNOXVILLE — The Summitt is permanent.

After some debate the last few days on radio talk shows and Internet message boards, University of Tennessee officials clarified yesterday that the court at Thompson-Boling Arena will be re-named for Coach Pat Summitt for all events — and not just women's basketball games.

''Pat Summitt deserves the honor of naming the court for her at Thompson-Boling Arena,'' Tennessee Athletics Director Mike Hamilton said. ''She's the winningest coach in college basketball history. She's represented the state and the University of Tennessee in a first-class manner over the years.''

Summitt, whose Lady Vols face Texas Tech on Sunday in the Sweet 16, won her 880th career game last Tuesday to pass North Carolina's Dean Smith for the most wins in NCAA basketball history.

Joan Cronan, the Tennessee women's athletics director, said the decision to re-name the court after Summitt was approved by UT President John Petersen, the board of trustees, Hamilton and Cronan. She said ''The Summitt'' will be permanently painted onto the court and will include Summitt's signature.

''Any coach, male or female, should be proud to play on a court that stands for excellence,'' Cronan said.

One of the concerns by fans of the Tennessee men's program was that playing on a court named for a women's basketball coach might be used against the Vols in recruiting. Tennessee is in the process of trying to hire its sixth men's basketball coach in the last 16 years.

''I would question anyone who would have a problem with being associated with excellence,'' Cronan said. ''Pat Summitt has won 880 games, six national titles and has represented the university and the state of Tennessee so well. We should all be proud to have something named in her honor.''

Summitt, unaware of the plans to re-name the court in her honor until it was announced Tuesday, shrugged off any potential controversy.

''I think a long time ago, I said, 'I'm not listening to any of that stuff,' '' she said. ''I can't imagine it hurting the men's program.''

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