Pat Summitt, legendary former coach of Lady Vols, dies at 64

pat-summitt

Pat Summitt, who won eight national championships as head coach of the University of Tennessee women’s basketball team and had more wins than any NCAA college basketball coach in history when she was forced to retire at age 59 because of a diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, died June 28 at a senior living home in Knoxville. She was 64.

She died of complications from the disease, said family spokeswoman Erin Freeman.

Ms. Summitt unexpectedly became coach of the Tennessee Lady Vols when she was 22 and, over a 38-year career, formed a dynasty seldom matched in any college sport. She was the first college basketball coach, male or female, to reach 1,000 victories in a career.


My obituary of Summitt ran A1 in The Washington Post on June 29, and was syndicated nationally.

Key Basketball Player Dismissed Due to Grades

Anthony Griffis appeared and started in all 29 of UT’s men’s basketball games last season. He averaged 15.8 points a game, along with five rebounds per game and totaled 27 assists on the year. | Samantha Battersby/ The Minaret

Written by: Daniel Feingold and Miles Parks

The University of Tampa men’s basketball team enters the 2011-2012 season without guard Anthony Griffis, a second-team All-SSC player who finished last season second on the team in scoring.

Following the spring semester, Griffis was academically dismissed from the university after finishing the school year with a GPA below 2.0. Per the university’s 2010-2011 catalog, “Failure to maintain satisfactory academic standing may result in a student’s dismissal from the university.”

His petition to continue his enrollment at UT was denied.

“When I wasn’t accepted, it was a little disappointing for me,” Griffis said. “It was a lesson learned. It wasn’t [anyone else’s] but my fault, so I really can’t be mad at the university.”

According to men’s head basketball coach Richard Schmidt, Griffis transferred to UT last fall with a 2.7 GPA from Lincoln Trail College, a community college in Robinson, Ill. While his credits from Lincoln Trail transferred, his GPA did not; therefore, the grades he earned in his junior year at UT stood as the GPA he was evaluated by.

Following what Coach Schmidt described as a terrible first semester, Griffis was granted until the end of the year by the university to get his GPA above a 2.0. Schmidt said that Griffis’ first semester ended much poorer than his second, but referenced a failed economics course that was the difference between a passing and not-passing grade point average.

Anthony Griffis appeared and started in all 29 of UT’s men’s basketball games last season. He averaged 15.8 points a game, along with five rebounds per game and totaled 27 assists on the year. | Samantha Battersby/ The Minaret

“The first semester was just terrible,” Schmidt said. “And then we got him organized and he did much better the second semester. . . . I was hoping they would give him another semester. I think he realized that he was in trouble and he could do better.”

Coach Schmidt and assistant coach Justin Pecka hoped Griffis’ dismissal case would be reviewed after the summer sessions, enabling him to take two classes during that time to raise his GPA. But according to the catalog, “A student whose cumulative grade point average falls within the academic dismissal range will have his or her record reviewed, and will be subject to dismissal following each regular (fall or spring) semester.”

Griffis petitioned to extend his enrollment another semester, but the Faculty Appeals Committee denied his request.

“I was disappointed with [the decision],” Schmidt said. “I felt like he should be given at least another semester of summer to see whether he could pull his grades up. He had never been in a school as tough as this and some junior colleges are just not very tough.”

The committee wasn’t informed that Griffis was an athlete, so his academic performance was evaluated the same as any other UT student, according to Yovan Reyes, the associate director of the academic advising office.

“We don’t even tell [the committee] if they’re athletes or not,” Reyes said. “Which is good. It’s unbiased.”

The only way the committee would have an idea is indirectly through the petition, which included contributions from his coaches. According to Reyes, these contributions are part of the petition in favor of the student’s case.

“We’re not cold-hearted,” Reyes said of the appeals committee members. “There are parameters in there to assist students.”

Both Griffis and Pecka alluded to the challenges that came with Griffis being unprepared as he transitioned from a community college to a university.

“It was just a major jump for me,” Griffis said. “I definitely should’ve put more time into the books. Definitely more studying and less partying, I would say.”

Rudy Jean, a former UT basketball player who played alongside Griffis during the ‘10-’11 season, said his teammates and coaches were aware of Griffis’ troubles and tried helping him with his schoolwork.

“We all knew that he was struggling,” Jean said. “He was getting a lot of help. Just, at times, he just didn’t take it that seriously. That was the problem.”

Jean clarified that Griffis’ problem with his schoolwork was about not understanding its importance.

“He just didn’t think it was as serious as it is, so it messed him up,” Jean said. “But it wasn’t like he was stupid or anything, he just didn’t think it was all that work.”

Coach Pecka said he would help Griffis with his schoolwork on nights while Griffis also participated in study sessions with teammates. But after being dismissed from the university, Griffis visited a psychologist and was diagnosed with a learning disability, which Schmidt clarified as ADD. Griffis believes that had he sooner known about his problems with concentration, his academic problems could have been avoided altogether.

The dismissal comes on the heels of a ‘10-’11 season when the Spartans went 22-7 and were already losing three-time All-SSC guard Rashad Callaway to graduation.

Although the Spartans will miss their top two scorers, Coach Schmidt said it is more than just offense the team will miss from Griffis.

“You hate losing possibly your best player, but it wasn’t that as much as we hate not seeing Anthony around,” Schmidt said.

He was appreciated by his teammates as well.

“He’s a fun kid, he’s a good person, and everything,” Jean said. “He’s a friendly person, he knew everyone on campus, [and] everyone knew ‘Ant.’”

Attending a university was a major accomplishment for Griffis and his family.

“This was the greatest thing that’s ever happened to Anthony,” Schmidt added. “To get into a really good school, get settled in and it was a big thing for him. His family was real proud of him, that he could maybe get a college degree. This was a real blow to them.”

Griffis and his family are not giving up on his chance to graduate from UT. He is currently enrolled in online courses as a part-time student at Louisiana State University while living at home.

Griffis, along with his coaches, hopes he can return to the university next fall. The UT catalog states, “Students dismissed . . . for academic reasons may apply for readmission after one academic year (two regular semesters) has elapsed.”

His application will first go through the Office of Admissions, and then be referred to the Academic Appeals Committee. Associate director Reyes estimated that out of 100 students who are academically dismissed, 20 apply for readmission, and approximately 10 to 15 are accepted.

Meanwhile, Griffis continues to work on his academics with tutors as the UT men’s basketball team prepares to open its season. He said he plans on visiting Tampa in January to support the team during its conference play. Five months removed from his dismissal, Griffis acknowledges and is working to overcome last year’s mistakes.

“It’s a lesson learned,” he said. “I think it’s just a lesson learned for me and my family. I think my eyes are open now and I think I’m well prepared.”

This article was originally published in The Minaret.

Looking Back at Callaway’s Career as a Spartan

Rashad Callaway led the '10-'11 Spartans to a record-breaking start. | Photo courtesy of UT Sports Information

Three years ago, he was a freshman point guard under heavy fire. The University of Tampa was coming down hard on him, and his parents were pushing him to transfer.

At the time, Rashad Callaway was accused of sexual misconduct and facing expulsion from the school. Both he and the female involved in the incident were intoxicated, according to past coverage in The Minaret. The woman told her side of the story in a letter to the editor soon after she attempted to push the case into the legal system.

Legally, all charges were dropped. Callaway, along with his coaches, still preach his innocence. But the school proceeded to take conduct actions.

Michael Gilmer, judicial coordinator in the UT Office of Student Conduct, said the policy for sexual misconduct has changed a lot over the past few years.

Due to the fact that the Conduct Board is not a legal entity — it is an “internal educational” extension of the university — it is under a completely different set of guidelines when it comes to the hearing process.

“The legal process deals with evidence in a ‘proof beyond reasonable doubt’ fashion,” Gilmer said. “We act after a preponderance of information and determination of responsibility being more likely than not. The goal of the conduct process is to educate students and keep the campus as safe a place as possible.”

Callaway was found guilty by the school of sexual misconduct. He appealed his sanctions of expulsion, resulting in a lessening of the punishment. He was suspended from housing until the following fall semester.

It’s now three years later and Callaway, 21, is a week away from graduating.

“All in all, the experience was just humbling,” he said. “It just lets you know that stuff like this in life can happen. I’m glad that I’ve stayed here for another three years and that I faced everything that happened my freshman year.”

Three years later, he has put his name in the Spartan record books. Callaway has become the face of UT basketball, leading the team in scoring each of the past three seasons. The point guard finished his career fifth on UT’s all-time scoring list, second in three-pointers and second in assists. Overalll, Callaway will walk away from UT in the top 10 of 17 career record categories.

A native of Bayonne, N.J., Callaway has a large family and a unique background. He was raised with seven brothers and sisters, five of which still lived in the house while Callaway grew up. His parents were both athletes; his mother ran track and his father played basketball.

Callaway said his dad worked on ball-handling skills with his sons a lot because he was never good with the dribble. He had a great shot, though.

Bayonne is a middle class suburb that exposed Callaway to many races and lifestyles, especially since his dad grew up just north of where they lived, in a much poorer community.

During his senior year at Bayonne High School, his family suffered a great loss.

Callaway’s older brother, Al-Jabbar, died at 32 due to what the family thinks were complications from his epilepsy. Callaway said his brother had become very devoted to his Christian faith, and it began to clash with his daily reliance on medicine.

“He got very into God and started asking questions like ‘Why do I gotta keep taking these pills?’ Callaway said.

“We think he got to the point where he was just like ‘I’m not gonna take these pills and whatever happens happens,’ and he left it in God’s hands.”

Callaway said that when Al-Jabbar passed, a full bottle of pills was found in his residence, although the prescription had been filled more than two weeks before.

Callaway and his family are Christian. He said he prays before he goes to sleep every night.

The rest of this article can be found here, where it was originally published in The Minaret.