According to documents filed in a lawsuit, University of Tennessee coaching legend Pat Summitt says athletic director Dave Hart told her she would not return after the 2012 season. Summitt, 60, was diagnosed last year as being in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
According to a story in USA Today, Summitt’s statement was made in an affidavit supporting a lawsuit against the school and Hart brought by former associate athletics director Debby Jennings, who alleges gender and age-based discrimination. Jennings left Tennessee this year at age 57.
In the lawsuit, Jennings claims Hart, citing “insubordination,” gave her the choice of “retiring, resigning or being fired” May 15, exactly two months after she sent Hart an email in protest of his alleged decision to remove Summitt and make her “head coach emeritus.”
Summitt’s affidavit says Jennings was one of a handful of people she told about the meeting with Hart.
When the suit was filed last week, university spokeswoman Margie Nichols told the Knoxville News-Sentinel the allegation involving Summitt “is absolutely not true. It was Pat’s idea to be head coach emeritus.”
Summitt’s affidavit contradicts that: “This was very surprising to me and very hurtful as that was a decision I would have liked to have made on my own at the end of the season after consulting with my family, doctors, colleagues, and friends and not to be told this by Mr. Hart. I felt this was wrong.”
Summitt later says Hart met with her again and indicated she misinterpreted what he said but that she didn’t tell Jennings about that meeting.
Summitt coached at Tennessee for 38 seasons. She had a record of 1,098-208 and won 16 SEC championships and eight national championships.