Pat Head Summitt

Text and photos by Nathan Morgan

Athlete. Trailblazer. Legend. Three words that describe UT Martin’s most famous alumna, Pat Head Summitt (‘74), or Trish as she was known during her time as a Pacer.

When Summitt arrived on the campus of UT Martin in the fall of 1970, no one could have imagined the storied career that lay before her. Now, 50 years later, the few items that remain from her college career are treasured artifacts from one of the most outstanding coaches in the history of basketball.

Summitt played basketball at UT Martin for head coach Nadine Gearin from 1970-74. She led the then-Pacers to a combined 64-30 record and left UT Martin as the program’s all-time leading scorer with 1,405 points.

Just as Summitt was wrapping up her final semester at UT Martin in 1974, she received a letter at her dorm room, 461 in Clement Hall, that would change her life forever – an offer to become the head women’s basketball coach at the University of Tennessee. A few months after graduating from UT Martin with a degree in physical education, Summitt was headed for Knoxville to begin her new job. And, as they say, the rest is history.

After leaving UT Martin, Summitt went on to compete in the Olympics twice: once as a member and co-captain of the United States Women’s Olympics Basketball Team that won a silver medal in the 1976 Olympics held in Montreal and once as a coach of the 1984 United States Women’s Olympic Basketball Team. Additionally, she notched 112 NCAA Tournament wins and 18 NCAA Final Four appearances in her 38 years as head coach of the Lady Vols.

Martin was home to Summitt, and she never forgot it. Today the legendary coach is honored in and around the Kathleen and Tom Elam Center in several ways. Her retired 55 jersey hangs in the rafters, the arena floor is named in her honor, the street leading to the building bears her name, and there is even a statue of her just outside the main Elam Center entrance – all a testimony to a life well lived.

“From the Archives” is a feature highlighting unique and interesting items from the Alliene and Jimmie S. Corbitt Special Collections. For more information or to make a donation, contact UT Martin Special Collections and Archives at 731-881-7094 or


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