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


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.


Family Mourns Death of 2-Year-Old Hit by Truck in Bartow

Flowers and candles adorn the spot where 2-year-old Alex Menendez was hit and killed Monday in the Bartow Mobile Home Park. He is survived by his mother, father, and 7-year-old brother. | Miles Parks, The Ledger

Flowers and candles adorn the spot where 2-year-old Alex Menendez was hit and killed Monday in the Bartow Mobile Home Park. He is survived by his mother, father, and 7-year-old brother. | Miles Parks, The Ledger

BARTOW | A life lost less than three years after it began put tears in Odorico Menendez’s eyes.

“That was my son,” Menendez said. “That was my baby.”

Menendez’s distant brown eyes were tinted pink; his hand shook slightly as he pointed to the grassy spot where his son had played happily just a day before.

It now holds a candled memorial.

Alex Menendez was killed Monday night while riding his tricycle in the Bartow Mobile Home Park where his family lives. A pickup driven by Lorenzo Jimenez-Guillen, 53, backed into the 2-year-old as he rode, in clear view of his mother, Micaelina Garcia-Escamilla.

Garcia-Escamilla took Alex and his older brother, 7-year-old Alexis, out to play in front of their home about 6 p.m. Monday, Menendez said. Menendez and Garcia-Escamilla have been married for eight years.

Alex was excited to jump on his black-and-red tricycle, and when given the chance, he sped up the block away from his mom.

He got less than 30 feet when the Toyota truck began to back out of the driveway.

Garcia-Escamilla immediately realized what was about to occur, Menendez said.

“She ran over, she yelled, ‘No! No! No!,'” Menendez said. “But he couldn’t hear. The windows were up.”

The initial crash didn’t kill the boy, Menendez said, but the truck rolled over him again as it shifted direction and went forward immediately after.

The Mexican consulate is helping with the family’s attempts to get the boy’s body shipped back to Hidalgo, Mexico, where the family lived before moving to Bartow 10 years ago.

Anna Lopez, 36, a neighbor, said police were at the scene until about 9 p.m. Monday as residents of the park coped with the crash.

“It was devastating,” Lopez said. “People were in shock.”

Menendez said his family will probably move back to Mexico soon because of the tragedy.

“I just want to go home,” he said.

This article can be found online here as it was originally published on page B1 of The Ledger.

UT Hall of Famer Freddie Solomon Dies

"Fabulous Freddie" Solomon set an NCAA record for quarterback rush yards in a season in 1974. | Courtesy of UT Sports Information | Courtesy of UT Sports Information

University of Tampa Hall of Fame football player and former NFL wide receiver Freddie Solomon died on Monday afternoon at the age of 59. His family said the cause of death was lung and colon cancer.

“We not only lost one of our greatest athletes, but we lost our favorite son,” said UT Athletic Director Larry Marfise. “This is an extremely sad day for the University of Tampa. Freddie was a person who exemplified what a true Spartan was, never forgetting his roots.”

Solomon was drafted out of UT in 1975, selected in the second round by the Miami Dolphins. He played three seasons with Miami before spending his final eight in San Francisco alongside Joe Montana and Jerry Rice, cementing his status as one of the greatest athletes and leaders to play football in the Tampa Bay area.

“Freddie was very influential to me and my career, and taught me about work ethic and professionalism. He inspired me to go out there every day and emulate him,” Hall of Famer Rice said, as quoted in a report by ESPN.

Solomon caught 371 passes during his 11 year NFL career to go along with 5,846 yards and 48 touchdowns. His most famous moment on the football field, though, might be a play he never got to make.

During the 1982 NFL Championship game between the 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys, Solomon had six catches in the game for 75 yards and a touchdown. During the final drive though, as the Niners were down six with about a minute left, Montana overthrew Solomon on what would have been the winning touchdown.

“Solomon looked like he beat (Dallas DB) Everson Walls,” said Vin Scully during CBS’ broadcast of the game.

Two plays later, Dwight Clark caught what forever will be referred to as “the catch.” He leapt, seemingly miles above the ground and came down with what would send the Niners to the 1982 Super Bowl, where they would defeat the Cincinnati Bengals.

What most fans don’t know is that Clark wasn’t the original option on that 3rd down play-call; the play’s first option was UT alum Freddie Solomon, who slipped in the mud during his route. And Clark knows it.

“If Freddie doesn’t slip,” Clark said, to the Tampa Bay Times, “Freddie is the guy who makes “‘the catch.’”

Solomon is regarded as one of the best players to ever come out of UT’s football program. Although a wide receiver in the NFL, Solomon played quarterback for the Spartans. In his final season, he set an NCAA record with 1,300 rush yards while also compiling 19 touchdowns. “Fabulous Freddie” as he was called, finished his four years at UT with 5,803 total yards and garnered 13 first-place votes in the 1974 Heisman Trophy voting.

“He was the best player in the country,” said Vin Hoover, Solomon’s teammate at UT, to the Tampa Tribune. “Had he played for Oklahoma, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, some place like that, he would’ve won the Heisman. Freddie was a phenomenon.”

After the ‘74 season, Solomon left for the pros and UT disbanded its football program for many reasons, including growing competition from within the Tampa Bay market.

Even with all of his statistical accomplishments, Solomon’s greatest gift wasn’t in his football prowess. It was in his personality and in his passion for the Tampa Bay community and with the University of Tampa in particular.

From Sumter, S.C., Solomon spent the beginning of his life self-conscious and quiet, embarrassed of a speech impediment that troubled him for years. He was scared of people for most of his childhood, except for one day a week.

“Except for Friday night (during high-school football season),” Solomon once said, according to the Tribune. “I wasn’t frightened then.”

Solomon used his success as a football player to overcome his social issues and eventually become a role model for the community where he attended college.

In December, UT held an event called “Freddie and Friends” to raise money for an eventual scholarship in Solomon’s name. Roughly 500 people attended and over $200,000 was raised. During a 10-minute speech, Solomon vowed to fight his illness while also imploring attendees to help others fight as they go through the same battle.

“What I would like to say is that not only pray for me, but pray for all the other cancer victims,” Solomon said then, according to the Tampa Bay Times. “For they need just as much prayer, or even more, than Freddie Solomon do. You’ve given me the will to stand up and fight, and I’m going to fight it with all I’ve got. I’m not afraid. It’s another game. I must prepare myself to take on that challenge.”

Solomon will be remembered for his blazing speed but more importantly, his lasting principle.

“He gives from the heart,” Solomon’s wife, Dee, said at the December event. “And doesn’t expect anything in return. I think he’s touched a lot of lives.”

The wide-out with the sixth-most receiving yards in 49ers’ history, and the mentor to Jerry Rice, has a place in UT’s Hall of Fame. But there is so much more to the story of his life, so much more room for inspiration.

“Your greatest asset and greatest legacy is you’re a teacher,” Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee said in December.

“You’ve taught so many about what it means to have good character.”

This article was originally published in The Minaret.