O God of Players: The Story of the Immaculata Mighty Macs

O God of Players: The Story of the Immaculata Mighty Macs

O God of Players: The Story of the Immaculata Mighty Macs

O God of Players: The Story of the Immaculata Mighty Macs

Synopsis

Between 1972 and 1974, the Mighty Macs of Immaculata College--a small Catholic women's school outside Philadelphia--made history by winning the first three women's national college basketball championships ever played. A true Cinderella team, this unlikely fifteenth-seeded squad triumphed against enormous odds and four powerhouse state teams to secure the championship title and capture the imaginations of fans and sportswriters across the country. But while they were making a significant contribution to legitimizing women's sports in America, the Mighty Macs were also challenging the traditional roles and obligations that circumscribed their Catholic schoolgirl lives. In this vivid account of Immaculata basketball, Julie Byrne goes beyond the fame to explore these young women's unusual lives, their rare opportunities and pleasures, their religious culture, and the broader ideas of womanhood they inspired and helped redefine.

Excerpt

On the last weekend in March 2000, teams from Tennessee, Penn State, Rutgers, and Connecticut arrived at Philadelphia’s First Union Center to play three contests that would determine the ncaa Women’s National Basketball Championship. More than just another national tournament, it was a homecoming for the women’s collegiate game itself, birthed and nurtured in the city of Philadelphia. Articles and broadcasts celebrated visionary local mothers of college hoops—Pat Collins at Temple in the forties, Eleanor Snell at Ursinus in the fifties, Carol Eckman at West Chester State in the sixties, and C. Vivian Stringer at Cheyney in the seventies—whose players in turn populated the ranks of coaches throughout the country. in the First Union Center, Final Four spectators meandered in a lobby packed with photographs and memorabilia of women’s game roots in Philly.

Soon after the game’s invention in 1891, Philadelphia girls, both black and white, excelled in basketball. After World War ii, local college programs contributed to early northeastern waves of women’s basketball fever. On the white side, a great part of this regional enthusiasm originated in the intense rivalries of Philadelphia’s Catholic girls’ schools. and of the early college teams that benefited from the Catholic school feeders, none is more famous than the Immaculata “Mighty Macs.” Winners of the first three national women’s college basketball tournaments from 1972 to 1974, the Mighty Macs and coach Cathy Rush gave the U.S. game its first generation of female stars.

But long before the 1970s teams won championships, four decades of Immaculata women played basketball, day in and day out, winter and summer.

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