Megan Netland has no connection to Tennessee, the University of Tennessee, or Knoxville, but she sure wants to see the NCAA Women's College Basketball Championship trophy named after Pat Summitt. She wants it so much, she started a Change.org petition and has more than 2,000 signatures on it.
Netland, 35, was just a small-town Iowa girl when she first saw Summitt on TV. In Fort Dodge, Netland played high school basketbal herself and looked to Summit as a role model while growing up.
"She really set the standard for me in striving for more, and trying to do the best, and making good decisions, and being a good role model for other, which I've tried to do throughout my life," Netland says.
She notes that Summitt was a pioneer in the sports world, and started playing and coaching women's college basketball before most people took women's sports seriously.
"She started before Title IX and was there through Title IX, and I think she and the women that were there along with her certainly opened doors for women like me. And I have a tremendous amount of appreciation for that. They were playing before they had uniforms or places to stay. This [petition] honors all that. From her time as a player through her coaching career," Netland says.
Netland went on to play softball at Coe College in Cedar Rapids and she's now a season ticket holder to the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx (who play in Minneapolis). She sees this year's emphasis on women in sports (especially in the Olympics) creating an environment perfect for her cause. After noticing some young women effectively use Change.org to get Seventeen magazine to stop photoshopping their cover models, Netland decided to make use of the website as well. And it's paid off.
"We received 2,000 signatures in 48 hours," she says. "So it's really picked up the pace and the number's increasing by the minute. It's been an incredible thing to watch. I keep refreshing the page."
The page has only been up since last Monday, and Netland sounds optimistic that she'll get the approximately 2,800 signatures needed to reach her goal. There's no hard deadline to get all those signatures, but the sooner the better, she says. And then?
"I'll definitely be reaching out to the NCAA when I feel like I've reached the critical mass point...and seeing where this needs to go from here. I would love to present them with a petition and make my case, and show them there are a lot of people out there right behind me," she says.
Netland isn't oblivious to the feminist undertones of her goal. Women had a great year in sports in 2012 (more women than men represented the U.S. at the Olympics, Netland points out), and she sees that as part of a greater feminist movement. And she's not ashamed of it.
"I'm very happy to be apart of it. Proud, as a matter of fact," she says.
At the heart of Netland's crusade, though, is a deep admiration of a local hero.
"From a distance, [Summitt] seems to be a good example all the way around--on the court and off the court--and that seems pretty exceptional," she says.
Read Netland's letter to the NCAA, and sign the petition (if you wish) here.