Summitt: Stepping down was my choice

Summitt: Stepping down was my choice

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UT Athletics Director Dave Hart (left) and Pat Summitt announced on April 19 she would step down as head coach. UT Athletics Director Dave Hart (left) and Pat Summitt announced on April 19 she would step down as head coach.

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Pat Summitt responded on Friday to the controversy surrounding her decision to step down as head coach of the Lady Vols.

"It was entirely my decision to step down from my position as head coach of women's basketball at the University of Tennessee," Summitt said in a statement. "I did not then, and I do not now, feel that I was 'forced out' by the University."

The statement contradicts a report in which she said the decision was forced on her by UT Athletic Director Dave Hart.

In a sworn affidavit related to a lawsuit filed against the university by former Lady Vols Media Director Debby Jennings, Summitt describes Hart's request as "very surprising to me and very hurtful."

"In connection with my move from head coach to head coach emeritus, the university has treated me with the utmost respect and graciousness, as it always has throughout my tenure as head coach," Summitt said.

Friday's statement is consistent with what Summitt told the media and others gathered at her farewell news conference in April.

"We're saddened that Coach Summitt has been drawn into this," said university spokesperson Margie Nichols in response to Summitt's statement on Friday. "We stand by Pat and her statements, both today and at her press conference in April, that it was her decision to step aside as head coach and become head coach emeritus of the Lady Vol basketball team."

"We are eager to respond to the other allegations in the lawsuit and will do so through the judicial process," Nichols continued.

Many UT fans had strong reactions to Summitt's press release Friday.

"I think she was probably forced out," said UT fan Holly Mikles. "I don't think she would have stepped down on her own."

"I definitely feel she was pushed a little away from the university, just because of her circumstances," said UT student Andy Pigg. "I don't know if it was a decision she made completely on her own."

"I think maybe it was a little bit of both," said UT fan Linda Coward. "Maybe she was offered some incentives to leave a little bit early. As strong as a woman she was, I truly don't believe she left completely voluntarily."

Everyone we spoke with feels this week's controversy will not affect Pat's legacy.
  
"Absolutely not," said UT student Dan Hood. "Pat Summitt is someone you look up to."

"I think she's a strong woman," said Mikles. "I think she's done a lot for Knoxville. No it doesn't change my opinion about her."

"She's just been an icon of women's sports and leading the Lady Vols to the first and only national championship win," said Coward, "To me and Knoxville, a legend in women's sports."

Click here to view the full statement from Summitt.

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