Lady Vols, SEC still have Pat’s back

Tonight, Tennessee honors a legend. But can the Lady Vols get the job done on the court?

The Pat Summitt Plaza was officially dedicated to the former Lady Vols coach. Photo by Nichole Stevens

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When the Lady Vols take on Vanderbilt tonight at Thompson-Boling Arena, it will be more than just your ordinary SEC women’s basketball game.

It will be about honoring the legendary Pat Summitt. Tennessee’s head coach emeritus was diagnosed with early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type, before the 2011-12 basketball season. That was the last season for Summitt as the Lady Vols’ head coach. She literally handed the whistle and the program over to longtime assistant coach Holly Warlick.

Ever since Summitt stepped down, Tennessee and the SEC have held “We Back Pat” week. This week means more to the Lady Vols and their fan base than most. However, other teams in the SEC also honor the legend.

Money is raised for Alzheimer’s research and for the Pat Summitt Foundation. For those clad in orange and Lady Vols’ blue, it goes deeper than raising awareness for the disease. It is about letting Summitt know how important she is to the fans on Rocky Top.

Summitt’s career may have come to an early and shocking end, but it has not changed her legacy in the minds of Tennessee fans.

If this year is similar to years past, you can expect videos from other SEC coaches and former players, donations to the Pat Summitt Foundation and to Alzheimer’s research. Summitt will make an appearance on some level and there will be plenty of “We Back Pat” t-shirts to go around.

There should be a large crowd if weather permits. While the game itself is important for sentimental reasons, the team does not need a third loss in league play before a trip to Lexington this weekend.

In a season where the pressure is turned up on Warlick and the team, it will be even higher tonight. Losing to Vandy on The Summitt on “We Back Pat” night probably wouldn’t make any Tennessee fan happy.

It definitely won’t help to quiet the noise that some fans are making about the disappointing season the Lady Vols are having. Still, tonight is about more than winning. It is about Summitt and the love a fan base has for a true legend.

So, tonight if you find your way to The Summitt, for whatever reason, all the struggles of a hard season will be forgotten momentarily… for something bigger.

Tonight is about unity.

Tonight is about the woman that made women’s basketball what it is today.

Tonight, Tennessee says,

“We Back Pat.”

Edited by Cody McClure

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Sam Forman is the lead sports staff writer for the Tennessee Journalist and is a senior studying Journalism and Electronic Media with a focus on sports broadcasting and reporting. He has been with TNJN since the fall of 2014. He is also a DJ for WUTK 90.3 fm. and a member of the Rock Solid Sports team. Sam has spent six years marching in the Pride of The Southland Marching Band. When he is not covering or talking sports, you can find him outdoors, playing music or hanging out with friends. You can find him on twitter: @samWforman