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Summitt’s Son Could Provide A Way Out For Tennessee

Last week, we noted when former Lady Vols spokesperson Debby Jennings filed a lawsuit against the University of Tennessee for “unlawful discrimination” that her attempt to drag former women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt into the mess was hardly the action of someone who had the coach’s health in mind.

Summitt is battling early-onset demantia and — it’s hard to put this nicely — isn’t always herself these days.  Jennings worked alongside Summitt for 35 years before being forced out as the Lady Vols’ PR contact for “insubordination” earlier this year.  Stating in her suit that Summitt had been forced into the role of “head coach emeritus” against her will was clearly done to a) get public opinion on the side of Jennings and to b) damage the reputation of Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart.

Jennings forced Summitt to pick between her longtime colleague and the school that had employed her for 38 years and gave her a $1 million bonus when she stepped into the emeritus role this spring (a role that also comes with an office and a $350,000 a year salary).

Well, as we learned late last night, Summitt had already made her choice before Jennings even filed her lawsuit.

In early-August, the ex-Lady Vol coach signed an affidavit claiming that Hart had met with her before the NCAA Tournament and told her that he was going to name Summitt’s assistant Holly Warlick as the new head coach.  (In the same affidavit, Summitt also claimed that she and Hart met again and that Hart told her that she “misinterpreted what he said” in the earlier meeting.  Summitt said she did not tell Jennings of that meeting.  That part might be hard for Jennings’ lawyers to explain.)

Making matters worse, Summitt claimed in the document that she was “angered when (Hart) came out in an interview with the media in May 2012 and denied that he ever intended to do away with the Lady Vol logo” and switch to the “Power T” logo as he combined the men’s and women’s departments.  According to Summitt, he had discussed that idea with her months earlier.

Naturally, this all caused quite a brouhaha in Knoxville today.  Speaking with a Knoxville radio host this afternoon, I was told that the majority of talkshow callers had weighed in in favor of Summitt and against Hart on WNML-AM/FM, a flagship station of the Vol radio network.

No doubt that is exactly what Jennings had wanted.  She has requested a jury trial.  And having Summitt on her side would be as much a coup in a court of law as it is in the court of public opinion.

But does Jennings really have Summitt on her side as the affidavit would suggest?  Sadly, by signing that document, Summitt has put herself in a position where it’s fair game to question whether or not she even knew what she was signing on that day back in August.

This is a woman who is still employed by the University of Tennessee.  When Jennings filed her suit last week and claimed — without the Summitt document — that Summitt had been forced out, a UT spokesperson immediately said: “that statement is absolutely not true.  It was Pat’s idea to be head coach emeritus.”

Would a UT official have made such a forceful comment on a matter so sensitive without first getting the ex-coach’s go-ahead?  That’s doubtful.  Very doubtful.

Also, in announcing the promotion of Warlick, Summitt said the decision to move into a new role was hers. So why would Summitt say she made her own decision back in the spring, then sign a document claiming she was forced out in August, only to OK a statement from the school a month later saying she was not forced out?

Sadly, it may be up to her son — now an assistant coach with Marquette’s women’s program — to clear some of this up.  From people I’ve spoken to, Tyler Summitt is not at all happy that his mother has been placed in this position.

For Tennessee, the only way out of this mess might be a statement from Summitt or her son saying that indeed she was not forced out and that she was misled by another party — perhaps — or that she simply misunderstood what she was signing in August.

Interestingly, the ex-coach was not asked to sign a non-disclosure clause in her deal to become head coach emeritus because — as one Tennessee official told me today — there was no reason to have her sign one.  According to the official, she was never forced out of her old position.  There was nothing to keep under wraps in the first place.

So one wonders who was with Summitt at the time she signed the affidavit in question.  Her son?  Not from what I’ve heard.  An attorney or advisor?  Perhaps.  Jennings?

Only one thing is certain — Tyler Summitt might be the last great hope for Hart and the UT administration to escape this mess in one piece.  Short of that, they will continue to burn at the stake as upset Tennessee fans toss more and more logs onto the fire beneath them.

 


9 comments
noelreifer
noelreifer

Jennings is not showing gratitude for 35 years at UT. She should have moved on. She is dragging down the school. Pat (with much respect) needed to move on. Hart had the dirty job. Regardless of the details Jennings should have gotten on board with Hart and Pat (in her rational mind) would have wanted what was best for the program. Jennings' hurt feelings will cost everbody a lot of money.

 

quad77
quad77

and you called us UT fans crazy when we suggested that Hart was sent from Bama/Saban to systematically disable us.

Look who was right now MR Sec

KY_Daktari
KY_Daktari

I'm sorry, but I'm not sure I see the issue.  So what if she was forced to retire?   She is terribly ill and could not perform her job at the highest level, or perhaps at all.  It also sounds like she may be be capable of making these types of decisions for herself.  Hart did what he thought was best for the program.  As important as she has been, she cannot be bigger than the program.

 

Rupp was forced to retire at UK due to age.  Manning was replaced in Indianapolis due to another young QB coming along.  Same with Montana.These things happen.

 

of course, I have no connection to the program beyond wife and in-laws from Knoxville.  Here's hoping they figure this out without dragging Summitt through the mud any further.  It seems to me that Jennings is the problem here.

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

 @quad77 

 

I don't know if you're kidding or not about Hart, but the gist of my story -- and I think I hinted about as strongly as I could at what I believe happened after talking to multiple sources -- is that Summitt was drawn into signing something that she shouldn't have signed.  I don't believe UT did force her out... I think they laid out options for her and she misunderstood the options.  I think they had her best interests at heart and I believe Tyler Summitt was involved to a degree.

 

I could be wrong, but I don't think a new AD is going to force out Pat Summitt.  She even stated in the affidavit that Hart told her she'd misunderstood him in their first meeting.

 

You may not like the man because he's from Alabama, but I don't think Hart has a death wish.  Forcing out Pat Summitt would be akin to banning Peyton Manning from Neyland Stadium.  Hart would be roasted alive. 

 

Let's see how this plays out.  As stated, if Summitt or her son say the affidavit was somehow signed in error or taken the wrong way by the press and fans, that should exonerate the UT administration and put the light back on Debby Jennings... who dragged Summitt into this in the first place by naming her in the lawsuit.  If Summitt or her son do not make a statement, then Hart and crew will twist in the wind and face an increasing firestorm (to mix my cliches).

 

Thanks for reading the site,

John

sec_fan
sec_fan

@quad77

That would still be John. The athletic department has to cut the budget without eliminating programs and combining the departments was the best way. This lawsuit still has problems; it was well known that Pat was sick and this would likely would be her last year, since she was replaced by a woman there is no discrimination. The women’s athletic department being eliminated means that duplicate offices would be taken by the men’s department, thus more women would lose their position. The men's athletic department is responsible for the money and whether it seems fair or not that is the reality.  This lawsuit is sad since it seems like Jennings is putting a sick Pat Summit and her son in the middle of her own vendetta.

10Vol85
10Vol85

 "so what" - If she was forced to retire, then it should have come with rationale - not a lie (even granting that she corraborated it).  That is what.  There is no shame in the truth.  Certainly, there is a point beyond which she would be unable to continue but from my perspective that would have nothing to do with wins and losses.  Win you have ~40 years of success at the level she's had, you've earned a lot of leeway.  You could average in a couple of 0-fer years and still come out way ahead of most programs.  The issue would be if she were negatively affecting lives and beyond the point of being able to mentally comprehend it. 

 

Summitt's earned our trust over many, many years.  I'll take her word over Hart's any day until I hear from someone close to her that her mental state has been affected to the point that it is no longer so.

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

 @KY_Daktari 

 

You make sense.  I agree.  If a coach is ill, it's up to the school to do what's best for its program.  That's logical.

 

The problem is this... how many fans -- short for "fanatics" -- do you know who apply logic when their favorite team or coach or player is involved. 

 

Legendary coaches are had to force out.  That's just a fact of life.

 

Many thanks for reading the site.

 

John

quad77
quad77

 @John at MrSEC I was only kidding, cause i am sure my fellow vol fans are sending you hate mail. I have appreciated your coverage of the entire thing

John at MrSEC
John at MrSEC moderator

 @quad77 

 

Ah, good to know.  And the fact that I wasn't sure if you were joking tells you EXACTLY what kind of emails I'm getting!

 

All the best and thanks for reading,

John

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