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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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Oliver Plunkett: The name of today's saint is especially familiar to the Irish and the English—and with good reason. The English martyred Oliver Plunkett for defending the faith in his native Ireland during a period of severe persecution. 
<p>Born in County Meath in 1629, he studied for the priesthood in Rome and was ordained there in 1654. After some years of teaching and service to the poor of Rome he was appointed Archbishop of Armagh in Ireland. Four years later, in 1673, a new wave of anti-Catholic persecution began, forcing Archbishop Plunkett to do his pastoral work in secrecy and disguise and to live in hiding. Meanwhile, many of his priests were sent into exile; schools were closed; Church services had to be held in secret and convents and seminaries were suppressed. As archbishop, he was viewed as ultimately responsible for any rebellion or political activity among his parishioners. 
</p><p>Archbishop Plunkett was arrested and imprisoned in Dublin Castle in 1679, but his trial was moved to London. After deliberating for 15 minutes, a jury found him guilty of fomenting revolt. He was hanged, drawn and quartered in July 1681. 
</p><p>Pope Paul VI canonized Oliver Plunkett in 1975.</p> American Catholic Blog God had a plan even before he created Adam and Eve. God is never caught off guard. He knows all. He sees all. And he is working all things together for the good of his children. Nothing can stop his plan of mercy and love.

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