University of Texas dedicates statue to Conradt
Oct. 5, 2012
Liz Mannis, Texas Media Relations
The everlasting words of Jody Conradt -- "If you can see it, you can be it," -- echoed in the minds of friends and family as they descended upon the Frank Erwin Center's Lone Star Room to honor the legendary coach and women's athletics pioneer.
Guests at Friday afternoon's "Jody Conradt Statue Dedication" entered the venue to video footage recounting Conradt's 1986 national champion women's basketball team, which recorded the NCAA's first perfect season (34-0) by a Division I school in the sport of women's basketball.
But while Conradt racked up an impressive 900 wins over her 38-year coaching career, those who know her, define Conradt not by her achievements on the court, but by the impact she has had on everyone around her.
"I think the epitome of Jody is her class, her elegance, her mannerisms. She was always about integrity. She did what she said and she said what she did," said Women's Athletics Director Chris Plonsky. "She walks on, and her legacy is really represented in all of her players who are now wonderful mothers, educators and businesswomen."
Current UT women's basketball head coach, Karen Aston, spoke very highly of the decision to honor Conradt with a statue on campus,noting the impact Conradt and her legacy continue to have on The University and the Longhorn women's basketball program.
"This [statue] is the first place we would stop on a recruiting visit. If you brought someone on campus, you would want them to see the statue first and foremost," Aston said. "I think that's important. One part of my job, among a lot of things, is to educate people on Texas and the history of theprogram. Jody Conradt is the history, as far as I'm concerned."
Plonsky and Longhorn Network reporter Kaylee Hartung, who served as the program's emcee, kicked off the afternoon's dedication ceremony with a brief overview of the significance of Conradt's place in Texas history, before inviting University President Bill Powers to the stage.
Powers spoke to the many achievements of Conradt, but noted one achievement stood above the rest.
"The only number that really jumps out is 99. That's the percentage of her players that graduated," Powers said. "When you make sure your players come first, and your players as students come first, all else falls in place."
Powers also introduced the "Jody Conradt Opportunity Initiative," which consists of three funds to assist undergraduate and graduate women and provide opportunity through education and sports.
University of Tennessee Women's Basketball Coach Emeritus Pat Summitt then took the stage to honor her longtime friend and coaching colleague. Summitt brought the crowd to its collective feet when she took the stage, hand held high flashing the traditional Hook 'Em that has become synonymous the Longhorns.
"I don't know anybody more deserving of this special honor than Coach Conradt. She is a true friend to me," Summitt said.
The next portion of the program focused on the impact Title IX legislation has had on female students and athletes. Guests watched a video featuring a number of Longhorn athletes and coaches, including former Longhorn softball pitcher and Olympian Cat Osterman, explaining how they are the face of Title IX, and the many opportunities they have had because of the groundbreaking legislation.
Students from the Austin-based Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders then read a collection of essays titled, "What Title IX Means to Me." The seven essays were selected from a pool of 683. After reading the essays, the girls presented them to Conradt, thanking her for all she did to provide them with the opportunities they have in education and athletics today.
Next, a tribute video featuring former Secretary of State and one of Conradt's close friends, Condoleezza Rice, was played for the audience.
"Jody Conradt exemplifies so much that is good about college athletics," Rice said. "While the legislation was important in initiating these rights, it was people like Jody Conradt that brought it to life."
Joanne Benton McCrary, who played for Conradt from 1988-1993, shared with the audience the impact Conradt had on her as an athlete, a student, a mother and a person.
"I can truly say Coach Conradt has been a part of developing me, and who I am today," said McCrary. "I remember coach's desire for excellence. Not only did she invest (time) in our athletics, but she invested in our academics. She invested in our lives."
UT Men's Athletics Director DeLoss Dodds spoke the final words prior to the long-awaited statue unveiling. Dodds had the pleasure of working closely with Conradt from 1992-2001, when she served dual roles as both women's basketball coach and women's athletics director.
Dodds spoke to the contributions Conradt made as a coach, athletics director and leader at The University of Texas. He noted that Conradt joins legendary Football coach Darrell K. Royal as the only other coach in school history to have a statue at The University. Royal, who was in attendance for the dedication ceremony, stood up proudly lifting his hand with the Hook `Em sign pointed at Conradt.
"Can you imagine how far we've come with women's athletics?" said Dodds. "It has been a wonderful time. I will never be able to thank you enough."
Dodd then recited the seven core values of UT Athletics - integrity, excellence, teamwork, diversity, creativity, accountability and loyalty - all of which so properly define Conradt's legacy.
"Her loyalty to her kids, and The University of Texas - that has been unmatched," Dodds said.
The crowd then looked on as through a live video feed, the seven-foot, 600-pound statue depicting Conradt was unveiled. Artist Brian Hanlon, the official sculptor for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, of which Conradt is a member, looked on as his hard work was finally on display in its permanent location.
Conradt then took the stage to speak. The always-humble Conradt, 900 wins later, still couldn't believe that The University would make such a big deal about her.
"It seems a little excessive," Conradt said. "But, I'm extremely pleased, and feel tremendous gratitude and pleasure for all of your support."
Conradt reflected on her path to greatness, beginning with her memories as a young basketball player in the 1,300-person town of Goldthwaite, Texas, before going on to study physical education at Baylor University.
"I looked in my sphere of influence, and I saw women teaching. And I admired what they did," said Conradt, explaining how she decided to go into teaching and ultimately coaching.
After stops at Sam Houston State and UT-Arlington, Conradt was offered a job at The University of Texas.
"Who wouldn't want the opportunity to go to The University of Texas? Who wouldn't want the opportunity to wear that `T' across your chest?" Conradt said, choking back tears. "Little did I know that this was going to be the dream job. That this would be the dream career. That this would be the dream of a lifetime."
Conradt reflected upon the highlights of her coaching career. She also stressed the impact Title IX had on the evolution of women's athletics during her tenure, especially at The University of Texas, and how the legislation led the way in the fight for equality in women's athletics.
"Title IX changed all of our worlds," explained Conradt. "It was about The University of Texas doing the right thing, and showing to thewhole world that they valued women and women's athletics."