We Back Pat – Women’s Basketball Fighting Alzheimer’s Disease

This is “We Back Pat” Week. During the week of January 15-22, SEC member institutions will support the Pat Summitt Foundation Fund during their home basketball games.

Photo: SI.com

If you follow Women’s NCAA Basketball, I am certain you’ve heard of Tennessee Coach Pat Summitt. For 38 seasons Summitt has led the Lady Vols from the sidelines in over 1,075 victories and 8 NCAA Championships. 100% of her players who complete their 4 years of eligibility on the court graduate from college. She serves an iron fist and doesn’t back down. But even champions have their weaknesses. At age 59, Summitt faces early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type.

This farm girl grew up playing ball with a basket on the side of a barn. She’s this year’s Sports Illustrated Sportswoman of the Year and is the winningest coach in NCAA history. But this season she’s pressing on both on and off the court. Last year she announced the start of the Pat Summitt Foundation (Facebook) to find a cure for Alzheimer’s and support organizations who provide:

  • Education and awareness of Alzheimer’s, its onset and treatment
  • Support services to patients, their families and caregivers
  • Research to treat, prevent, cure, and ultimately eradicate this disease

This week, the SouthEastern Conference steps up to back Pat’s endeavors and highlight the work of Summitt Foundation. During the 17 women’s and 12 men’s games this week, efforts will be made to raise Alzheimer’s awareness.

Pat Summitt’s Definite Dozen:

  1. Respect Yourself and Others
  2. Take Full Responsibility
  3. Develop and Demonstrate Loyalty
  4. Learn to Be a Great Communicator
  5. Discipline Yourself So No One Else Has To
  6. Make Hard Work Your Passion
  7. Don’t Just Work Hard, Work Smart
  8. Put the Team Before Yourself
  9. Make Winning an Attitude
  10. Be a Competitor
  11. Change Is a Must
  12. Handle Success Like You Handle Failure

I look forward to watching a Lady Vols game on campus this semester and watching, in person, Summitt do her thing. I Back Pat.


  1. I heard about Pat’s diagnosis while watching the recent UK vs UT womens’ basketball game. I know firsthand what this disease does to people as I have watched both my great aunt and grandfather succumb to it. It turns people into something different, they’re never the same again. It’s good to see this disease getting national attention. It seems to me that many times, Alzheimer’s is kept in the closet, not talked about, while many other diseases that are viewed as more important have support efforts rallied to them. But the truth is, Alzheimer’s is just as important as multiple sclerosis, cancer, diabetes, or any other serious chronic disease. It robs people of their minds, changing them into a shell of someone you once knew. I’ll be lucky if my grandpa remembers who I am in a few more years. I hope that more research and funding goes into Alzheimer’s research because of efforts like that of Pat’s. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll be able to find better treatments and ultimately a cure for this disease.

  2. Ever read something when you really needed it … funny how that happens like that. So thank you for this post Ryan. I love getting my Ag fix sprinkled with some hockey now and then, but never expected this.

    Right now my Mom and I are playing tag team in caring for my Dad who has Dementia and what they are calling Parkinson’s like symptoms (which means he may or may not have Parkinson’s). Getting a diagnosis isn’t always easy or fast and Alzheimer’s had been on the list as well.

    Along with another hero of mine, Michael J. Fox, I can add Pat Summitt to the list. When you have a tough day, you look at people like Pat and Michael and your reminded that you don’t have a clue. The courage and character they posses, shines through to us on a daily basis. The legacy they are creating is beyond words to the people and families that are impacted by the diseases that are affecting their lives but by no way diminishing their spirit.

    We Back Pat too and thinking I’m going to be cheering for TN Lady Vols a little louder this year (just don’t tell UCONN). I almost didn’t add a comment here, but I bet Ryan almost didn’t write a post a time or two as well.

    – Sue McDonald

  3. As someone who watched their grandmother go from raising 6 kids, a half acre garden every year, hand cooking every meal making every dish of food, go to someone who only recognized her husband daily after 10 years of battling the disease, I truly appreciate you posting this. We lost my grandmother last fall and its still very fresh.

    Growing up in basketball household, Pat Summit’s name was as recognized as Michael Jordan. I was sadden to learn of her illness last summer, but very glad national attention is pouring out to this terrible disease.

    Great post!

  4. This Tennessee girl is thankful that the entire country is throwing their support behind Pat. She is a wonderful person and has worked hard for her success….it makes sense that she learned life’s fundamentals on a farm. I’m a senior at UT and can say that I am proud to attend the university where she coaches! (PS…I’m an Animal Science student and applying to vet school with my “useless” degree!)

Leave a Reply