As University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt takes her retirement, Sports Illustrated’s Holly Anderson reflects on Summitt’s career, women’s sports, and Title IX.
A funny thing happened toward the end of her career, a phenomenon I think we’ll see more and more of on a long enough timeline, and that 40 years later may represent the greatest legacy of Title IX: Gender has fallen out of the Summitt conversation. She can be referred to, casually, as “the greatest college basketball coach,” with no qualifiers attached. To throw “women’s” in there at this point would be to unfairly shield from her obvious superiority all the men’s coaches whose careers she’s outshone.
One of Summitt’s star players, Candace Parker, was the first woman dunk in an NCAA tournament game. By the time Brittney Griner became the second, in this year’s tournament, seeing her highlights on SportsCenter was a matter of course. Her antics became less “OOH, GIRL DUNK” and more “MONSTER ATHLETE ALERT.” Notice the lack of gender clarification.