It was all about burnt orange and bronze today as The University of Texas dedicated a statue of former UT women’s basketball coach Jody Conradt, celebrating her legendary career and the momentous impact she has had on women’s athletics at UT.
A private unveiling was held for the 600-pound, 7-foot-tall bronze statue depicting Conradt, fondly known as “Coach,” holding up the Hook ’em. The piece was completed by the work of New Jersey-based artist Brian Hanlon. The crowd read as a “Who’s Who” of past Longhorn basketball all-stars—among them Annette Smith-Knight, the all-time leading scorer in UT women’s basketball, Fran Harris, a member of the national championship team, and many others from different eras of Conradt’s career.
Former Tennessee basketball coach Pat Summitt joined President Bill Powers and UT athletics director DeLoss Dodds to celebrate Conradt on Friday, and she congratulated her friend on her career and honor. “I don’t know anyone who deserves it more,” Summit said.
Conradt’s statue, located on the concourse at the Frank Erwin Center, is only the second statue of a woman to be commissioned for The University of Texas campus. She follows U.S. Representative and civil rights activist Barbara Jordan, whose statue was debuted in April of 2009. Conradt is likewise only the second coach to have a statue on campus, following football coach Darrell K Royal.
“I am extremely pleased,” Conradt said. “I feel tremendous gratitude to you all.”
In her 31-year career at Texas, which spanned from 1976 to 2007, Conradt brought home 900 wins, was inducted to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, and was the first coach to lead a team to perfect season followed by a national championship during the 1985-1986 season. But most strikingly, and perhaps most significantly, 99 percent of the athletes who went through Conradt’s program received their degrees.
“When you look at the campus today, it’s hard to remember what the campus was like in 1976,” said Powers. “Jody Conradt’s career corresponded to, and more importantly caused the rapid assent of women’s sports at UT under the wake of Title IX.”
When Conradt first came up in the game of basketball, she has joked that the male coaches in her hometown of Goldthwaite drew straws to see who was responsible for the girls’ team—short straw coached the girls, long straw drove the bus.
She credits legislation like Title IX for allowing women to take a step forward in sports and education. Many attribute the same progress to her actions, both on and off the court.
“Jody Conradt came to the University of Texas just a couple of years after [Title IX],” said former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a taped statement. “And while that legislation was important in insisting on equal rights for women in sports and in academics in general, it’s people like Jody Conradt that brought it to life, that made it work, that insisted that the young women would have opportunities beyond those imagined just a few years before.”
In addition to the statue, Powers said that the university had launched a three-faceted fundraising initiative in honor of Conradt to further women’s pursuits in the classroom: the Jody Conradt Excellence Fund with the College of Liberal Arts and Center for Women’s and Gender Studies; the College of Education’s Jody Conradt Project for Health and Women’s Research; and the Jody Conradt Opportunity Fund to help fund student-athletes.
“The longer you stay away from coaching, the more you realize it’s not just winning,” said Conradt. “It’s about the relationship, and for women’s athletics, it’s about: we have changed the world.”
Conradt (right) and Pat Summitt. Photo courtesy UT Athletics.