Ronald Reagan picture

Remarks Congratulating the University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers On Winning the National Collegiate Athletic Association Basketball Championship

April 02, 1987

The President. Well, please be seated. We're delighted to have all of you here and to congratulate you on your stunning success this week. Leon Barmore, the coach of that fine Louisiana Tech team that you defeated, said that "Tennessee played the greatest defensive game I've ever seen." Well, believe me, I had a special feeling about all of you coming here today because, as perhaps you know, lately I've been playing a little defensive ball myself. [Laughter]

But I—well, I do know what this victory meant to all of you and especially to coach Pat Summitt. Pat, after 12 years of tremendous effort, your coaching and the heart and skill of these terrific young ladies gave you the victory that you've so long deserved. Now, I heard that you were up until 3 o'clock in the morning devising that defensive strategy. Well, obviously it was sleep well lost, because it worked masterfully out on the court. So, it's wonderful to see someone as deserving as you lead this team to victory. And we all support you.

And I want to compliment captain Shelley Sexton and the members of the team on a tremendous season, a season that demanded a great deal of each one of you. The University of Tennessee is a remarkable educational institution, and I think all of you have shown yourselves to be representatives of that great Volunteer educational and sports tradition. Your president, Ed Boling, is here, and Ed, I hope you'll take back my personal congratulations to the student body, the alumni, the trustees, and the people of your great State. Tell 'em for me that I was very proud to have such a great group of young athletes here at the White House today. Oh, and by the way, you might throw in my thanks for loaning me Howard Baker, too. [Laughter]

But again, Pat and ladies, each of you has done something very special this year: You've made your friends and neighbors and supporters very proud. And your victory is something to enjoy now, and to remember all your years. When I was playing college football, our coach used to tell us, in an effort to inspire us, that the things we would really remember the longest were the games we lost, and we'd be the rest of our lives thinking about, well, if we'd done this or done that. I have a hunch that you'll remember this game for a long time, and well you should. So, thank you all, and God bless you all.

Coach Summitt. President Reagan, I knew if there was anyone in America that could appreciate that defense it would be you. Thank you. I think you also can appreciate, as we appreciate, "Just Say No" to drugs and the campaign that Nancy Reagan has done such a great job with. For this team, "Just Say Yes" has been something that we've been proud of. First of all, for our program, academically, our 100-percent graduation rate that we are very proud of, and athletically, we've made eight trips to the Final Four in the past 11 years. I can tell you that winning the national championship was indeed the greatest honor that this team could bring to our university. And, today when we got up, I said, the team was as anxious, as excited, and as nervous coming here to have this opportunity as they were playing for a national championship. The honor is just as sweet as the victory. Thank you.

Ms. Sexton. Mr. President, on behalf of all us from Tennessee, we thank you for inviting us to be here today; we are very honored. We have a few gifts that we would like to present to you. [Laughter] First of all, we have your Converse Weapons. [Laughter] Now maybe you can play one-on-one for a day in our shoes. [Laughter] And these also are for Nancy Reagan, Mrs. Reagan.

The President. For her, well. Ms. Sexton. We thank you. Next, we have a basketball from the 1987 women's basketball championship team with our autographs on the basketball—and coaches—and we present that to you. And Cheryl has the championship T-shirts we'd like for you to have also.

The President. Well, thank you very much. [Laughter]

Coach Summitt. He's ready to play. [Applause] Thank you.

The President. Thank you very much. I am most grateful for all of these. And I have a hunch that in a couple of years this will be on display in a Presidential library, and I'll be very proud to have it there and proud for all of you. And my golly— [laughter] —I'm ready to go.

I can't help but take a little second and tell you something. I used to be a sports announcer and—back in the Midwest, back in the early thirties—that was a whole different century, practically, to all of you. But at that time, I developed quite a thing about girls basketball, because in Iowa—you may not know this—but in that era, high-school girls basketball was so great and so prominent that every year at the State tournament for the championship, the girls box office was greater than that for the male players for the State championship. So, any of you from Iowa here that maybe found your—

Team Members. No.

The President.—didn't find your way down here. All right. Well, again, thank you very much.

Team Members. Thank you.

Reporter. Have you been slam-dunked by your party, Mr. President?

Q. Are you going to be a caretaker, Mr. President? Are you going to be a caretaker President if you don't win this vote?

Q. Have you been slam-dunked by your own party?

Q. Because that's what they're saying, you know—caretaker President if you don't win this vote.

The President. You heard what happened. I'm playing defensive ball. [Laughter]

Q. Are you winning?

Q. Are you winning?

Q. The Democrats say you were buying votes.

Q. Are you winning, Mr. President?

Q. What's at stake in this vote, Mr. President?

The President. Don't want to know how the score came out until the game's over.

Note: The President spoke at 1:38 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. The reporters' questions referred to the Senate's override of the President's veto of the Surface Transportation and Uniform Relocation Assistance Act of 1987.

Ronald Reagan, Remarks Congratulating the University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers On Winning the National Collegiate Athletic Association Basketball Championship Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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