AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

A disgraceful, reckless Summitt

A recent column by Mechelle Voepel states, “Admittedly, people sometimes end up in relationships with athletes they coach or have coached. It happens with all sports, with men and women. The key is honesty and transparency, and sometimes it requires — or should require — the coach stepping down from his or her position to pursue or continue the relationship.”

The focus, of course, is Tyler Summitt and his recent resignation from Louisiana Tech. The damage he is doing to his name, his reputation, his wife and the person with whom he had an inappropriate relationship.

When I read the news, I was definitely surprised. Not because I’m a huge Tyler Summitt loyalist or because a 25 year-old man, surrounded by 18 to 22 year-old women on a daily basis, succumbed to an inappropriate relationship. My surprise was that he resigned from his head coaching position because of this inappropriate relationship.

Why would he do that, I wondered. I immediately scoured the internet to find a source that would define said relationship. I could only find rumors, which led me to numerous comments and remarks that surprised me almost as much as the alleged affair Summitt had with a player (I say alleged because he didn’t give details on the inappropriate relationship).

Kami Mattioli (@kmattio) said on Twitter that what he did was an “absolute disgrace.” 
Jason McIntyre (@jasonmcintyre) said he was “reckless.” 
Kate Fagan (@katefagan3) tweets, “WBB recruiting, every year since forever: ‘Don’t go play for that lesbian coach, she might hit on players.’” 
Jemelle Hill (@jemellehill) says in an interview, “Tyler Summitt has tarnished the family name.” 
Wes Rucker (@wesrucker247) states, “The Tyler Summittt news is shocking and obviously disappointing. Not sure what else can be said about it. Yikes.”

These are comments, tweets, and statements from real, legitimate sports reporters. Voepel, mentioned first, actually follows women’s basketball, the rest have resources that can provide them enough “scoop” to sound educated on the situation.

I’m certainly not defending what Summitt did, but — an absolute disgrace? I hardly think so. How many people do you know that are the perfect child until they get away from their mommy and daddy? He only knew Tennessee, and even what he knew of that was in a distorted light because he was the son of a mildly famous woman. I just can’t see how it is an absolute disgrace that he did what was expected of him (got married) and then had an affair. There are a lot of women, and men, who are “absolute disgraces” if that is the case.

I suppose because the rumors are that his relationship was with a player are what makes his actions reckless. Again, not defending the kid, but sadly, if a relationship with a player is considered reckless then 6% of male head coaches of Division I basketball are also reckless.

Has Summitt tarnished the family name, really? I could be crazy, but I don’t think the NCAA is going to revoke Pat Summitt’s wins because her son acted like many 25 year-olds. Pat Summitt’s legacy is for her coaching and the program she built at Tennessee. The only person who can tank her legacy is Holly Warlick, or whoever coaches after her.

The news is truly shocking and it is very disappointing. But — what else can be said about it? Here’s what else can be said.

Based on an internet search done the day after the news about Summitt emerged, there are 134 men serving as head coaches of NCAA Division I women’s basketball. Of the coaches willing to admit they are married in their bio, 20 are (or were) married to former basketball players. Of those 20, eight are married to players they coached.

The results I mentioned were thoroughly researched but my list still has 18 coaches who I marked as possible, but couldn’t confirm details (not enough information on the wife or flat-out doesn’t say if they are married/divorced) of their status.

I’ll be the first to admit that math isn’t my strength. So I asked Siri and she said that 8 of 134 is 5.9% (I’ll round that up to 6%). That doesn’t sound like a lot, I suppose that isn’t disturbing. So I checked to see how many of the male coaches have male assistant coaches and came up with a total of 156. Making a leap and assuming that there’s an average of 1.2 men coaching women as assistants, that would give us more than 550 (418 assistants, 134 head coaches) men coaching women’s basketball. Now, 6% is starting to disturb me because I know I didn’t run any numbers on Division II, III, NAIA or juco schools.

There were times during my research that I had to stop and take a deep breath; times I shook my head in disbelief; times my jaw nearly hit the floor in shock. It was sickening to follow the career path of some of these guys and see where they picked up their women and — in some cases — dropped them off and picked up another. To be fair, not every situation I researched made me want to shake off the ick that I had uncovered. All of the guys who married their former starting point guard, power forward, center, and/or shooting guard are still married.

Now, to Kate’s point — men always have and always will use the lesbian angle when recruiting. I didn’t attempt to research how many women coaches, head or assistant, admit they are lesbians and who they are “with” or if they are married. Their silence, even if forced, protects them in this exercise. To all the female coaches who fear they are losing the recruiting battle to a man they think may be using the lesbian angle against them — you are welcome. Feel free to tell the parents of the daughter you are recruiting that men coaching women is just as “dangerous” as letting their little girl play hoops for a woman, who has to be a lesbian because, well, she is a coach.

During all of these comments — and still not because I defend Tyler Summitt — my respect level for sports reporting was spiraling downward. Of the estimated 552 guys coaching Division I women, I would feel comfortable saying 551 of them are coaching women because they couldn’t, or can’t, get a job coaching men. If there was one who really, truly wanted to coach women’s basketball I’d bet it was Tyler Summitt. And because of his name, his mistake is a story that the other guys we haven’t heard of, got away with, and didn’t step down from their position as head coach.

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