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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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Francesco Antonio Fasani: Born in Lucera (southeast Italy), Francesco entered the Conventual Franciscans in 1695. After his ordination 10 years later, he taught philosophy to younger friars, served as guardian of his friary and later became provincial. When his term of office ended, Francesco became master of novices and finally pastor in his hometown. 
<p>In his various ministries, he was loving, devout and penitential. He was a sought-after confessor and preacher. One witness at the canonical hearings regarding Francesco’s holiness testified, "In his preaching he spoke in a familiar way, filled as he was with the love of God and neighbor; fired by the Spirit, he made use of the words and deed of Holy Scripture, stirring his listeners and moving them to do penance." Francesco showed himself a loyal friend of the poor, never hesitating to seek from benefactors what was needed. </p><p>At his death in Lucera, children ran through the streets and cried out, "The saint is dead! The saint is dead!" Francesco was canonized in 1986.</p> American Catholic Blog As people of faith, we wake up with a purpose. We have a sense of mission, and this gives our lives enduring meaning. We can share with confidence the Word of God, no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in. There are no chance encounters!

 
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