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The Mighty Macs: The Story Behind the Film View Comments
By B.G. Kelley

Coach Cathy (Carla Gugino) huddles the team to inspire them with her dream and vision—and strategy for the final play in the championship. Fictitious assistant coach Sister Sunday (Marley Shelton) leans in.

After March 19, 1972, women’s basketball would never be the same. On that day, Immaculata College, a tiny, Catholic women’s school located on a bucolic suburban campus just outside of Philadelphia, with an enrollment of just 550 and run by the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) sisters, would win the first-ever women’s national college basketball championship. They would forever change the look and culture of the women’s game.

In the 1960s, the women’s college game was barely a blip on the sports fan’s radar screen. The game seemed more like a friendly pastime rather than serious, competitive sport. Girls wore floppy tunics with box pleats—dresses, really—and were for the most part unathletic. They played a rigidly restrained game in cramped gymnasiums in which even the number of dribbles was controlled.

In fact, some schools were still playing with two sets of teams stationed on both sides of the court at the same time—one for offense and one for defense. The schedules were lousy, there were no scholarships and there was no entertainment value. The universal cry: No one wants to watch girls play.

“College basketball was a men’s club,” emphasizes Cathy Rush, the Hall of Fame coach who led Immaculata to that seemingly impossible 1972 national title. “Look, games were played on Monday afternoons at three o’clock. Nobody but the parents and a few friends even came. Nobody cared about women’s basketball. It was just our little thing.”

At the time, the women’s game didn’t even operate under the NCAA umbrella but was regulated by something called the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW), the first organization to govern women’s collegiate sports. So, yes, Rush is right: College basketball was a distinctly men’s game.

Until that day almost 40 years ago. When the Immaculata team returned home in March of 1972 after winning the national title, the question was instantly raised: How many men are on Philadelphia’s best college basketball team? The answer: none.

The Immaculata basketball team was dubbed the Mighty Macs. Forty years later, the Mighty Macs have gone Hollywood.

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A nationally published writer, B.G. Kelley was a Philadelphia high school basketball star for the first free Catholic secondary school in the United States, Roman Catholic High School. He went on to play for Temple University, earning Honorable Mention All-East and Small All-America honors.

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Katharine Drexel: If your father is an international banker and you ride in a private railroad car, you are not likely to be drawn into a life of voluntary poverty. But if your mother opens your home to the poor three days each week and your father spends half an hour each evening in prayer, it is not impossible that you will devote your life to the poor and give away millions of dollars. Katharine Drexel did that. 
<p>She was born in Philadelphia in 1858. She had an excellent education and traveled widely. As a rich girl, she had a grand debut into society. But when she nursed her stepmother through a three-year terminal illness, she saw that all the Drexel money could not buy safety from pain or death, and her life took a profound turn. </p><p>She had always been interested in the plight of the Indians, having been appalled by what she read in Helen Hunt Jackson’s <i>A Century of Dishonor</i>. While on a European tour, she met Pope Leo XIII and asked him to send more missionaries to Wyoming for her friend Bishop James O’Connor. The pope replied, “Why don’t you become a missionary?” His answer shocked her into considering new possibilities. </p><p>Back home, Katharine visited the Dakotas, met the Sioux leader Red Cloud and began her systematic aid to Indian missions. </p><p>She could easily have married. But after much discussion with Bishop O’Connor, she wrote in 1889, “The feast of St. Joseph brought me the grace to give the remainder of my life to the Indians and the Colored.” Newspaper headlines screamed “Gives Up Seven Million!” </p><p>After three and a half years of training, she and her first band of nuns (Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored) opened a boarding school in Santa Fe. A string of foundations followed. By 1942 she had a system of black Catholic schools in 13 states, plus 40 mission centers and 23 rural schools. Segregationists harassed her work, even burning a school in Pennsylvania. In all, she established 50 missions for Indians in 16 states. </p><p>Two saints met when Katharine was advised by Mother Cabrini about the “politics” of getting her Order’s Rule approved in Rome. Her crowning achievement was the founding of Xavier University in New Orleans, the first Catholic university in the United States for African Americans. </p><p>At 77, she suffered a heart attack and was forced to retire. Apparently her life was over. But now came almost 20 years of quiet, intense prayer from a small room overlooking the sanctuary. Small notebooks and slips of paper record her various prayers, ceaseless aspirations and meditation. She died at 96 and was canonized in 2000.</p> American Catholic Blog Our task during these forty days is to examine our lives in light of God’s Word and see where we’ve allowed darkness to creep in, where we’ve taken the bait of the diabolical fisher of men. It’s time to use the sword of the Spirit to cut through his web of deception, to free ourselves from the net that holds us as prey.


 
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