Lets Hear It For The Ladies

By Gary Norris Gray, BASN Staff Reporter
Updated: March 10, 2010

CALIFORNIA (BASN) — The month of March has been designated Women’s History Month, so let’s shed some basketball love and history.

The game of women’s basketball has changed over the years. In the early part of the 19th century, girls played half court. Three players from each team would play offense and defense, and they were not allowed to cross the half court line.

The times and rules have changed dramatically. Some players now dunk the ball, something that was unheard of and unthinkable 60 years ago.

In 1972 school age women all over America won a long waged battle for equality in sports. Title IX of the Education Amendment was passed. This new law made it illegal for any high school or college sports program to discriminate against anyone or deny access to sports equipment or sports programs if the school or universities were receiving federal financial assistance.

Women all over the country got their chance to play the sport(s) they love.

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In 1970, women’s college basketball was part of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletic for Women (AIAW). This group included numerous small schools that played larger schools which also had small basketball programs.

These schools do not get mention on the Selection Sunday show. Some of these pioneer schools are now in Divisions I and II because the student enrollment has stayed the same or decreased.

Schools like West Chester State , Indiana State, Cheyney State , Delta State , and South Dakota State , can no-longer compete against the larger schools in the Pac-10, Big 10, SEC, ACC, and Big East Conference.

//<![CDATA[ //]]> Indiana State and South Dakota State are considered “mid majors” in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC), Delta State joined the Gulf State Conference, and West Chester State and Cheyney State belong to the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC).

The last two conferences are in Division II.

In 1978, the NCAA and the AIAW got locked into a protracted two-year legal battle as to would be the coordinator of the Women’s Collegiate Basketball Championship.

The folks in Kansas (NCAA) won and the rest is history. The first official NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament would come during the 1979-80 campaign.

Back in the day, the Mighty Macs and the Lady Statesmen ruled the women’s basketball world. Head coaches Kathy Rush ( Immaculata College of Northeastern Pennsylvania) and Lily Margaret Wade ( Delta State in Southern Mississippi) //<![CDATA[ //]]> won the first six Women’s Championships.

Immaculata College won the title from 1972-74 and were runners-up in 75-76. In contrast, Delta State University also had a three-year championship run of their own from 1975-77.

Coaches Wade and Rush brought women’s college basketball out of the national dark ages and into the limelight. These women changed the uniforms and made their teams tough on the court.

They set the standards for their contemparies like Tennessee’s Pat Summitt , C. Vivian Stringer of Rutgers , the late Kay Yow of North Carolina State , and Stanford’s Tara VanDeever.

//<![CDATA[ //]]> Many of the coaches you see on the sidelines today began their careers during that era. Back in 1978, the women’s Final Four head coaches were all Mighty Mac Alumni:

Vicki Harrington: Immaculata ’67

Marianne Crawford- Stanley: Old Dominion ’76

Theresa Shank-Grentz: Rutgers ’74

Maureen ‘Rene’ Muth-Portland: Saint Joseph ‘s ’75.

It’s an era that probably won’t ever happen again. The Mighty Macs garnered a lot of firsts. They were the first women’s team to play on national television against the University of Maryland , the first to play overseas in Australia in 1974.

They were also the first to play in //<![CDATA[ //]]> Madison Square Garden in New York City against Queens College . Later, Immaculata College became the first female basketball team that played a doubleheader at the Spectrum in Philly .

I never would have known any of these sports facts if my sister, center, Deniece E. Gray had not played for the Mighty Macs of Immaculata College in 1974-75.

NEGATIVE VIBES

The mainstream media still focuses on the negatives of women’s sports and not the positive. For example, when Baylor’s 6-foot-8 freshman center Brittney Griner got frustrated and threw a punch after a tangle with Texas Tech forward Jordan Barncastle, a brief altercation erupted.

During the Lady Bears’ 69-60 victory, Grinier had been getting the better of Barncastle all night long. After Barncastle attempted to throw Grinier to the florr, Griner gave Barncastle a round house punch to the nose which led to both benches emptying on to the floor.

This became national news for all the wrong reasons.

Griner was suspended one game by Baylor University and The Big 12 Conference. She also received another game suspension from the rules enforcement committee of the NCAA.

That should have ended the story. However, we have not heard the last of this with the help of our friends in Bristol , Connecticut and their video propaganda machine will continue to re-broadcast this incident on SportsCenter.

The four letter network will milk this incident as long as they can because it sells. Ironically, this network will serve as the home for the 2010 Women’s NCAA Basketball Tournament as well.

Just a few years ago, there was the radio flap with Don Imus and the Rutgers women’s basketball team. Hats off to Head Coach Stringer and the Lady Scarlet Knights in the way these wonderful young black women handled that situation with grace and honor.

But many sports radio and television pundits will still not leave it alone.

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Moving into another decade, we see many prominent female basketball players in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) like Candance Parker, Tamika Catchings, The Paris Sisters, Chamique Holdsclaw, Ivory Latta, Diana Taurasi, Kai Vaughn, Candice Wiggins.

In the future, the best players in college will grace the WNBA floor like the trio of Maya Moore, Tina Charles, and Tiffany Hayes of the undefeated UConn Lady Huskies .

It is more exciting to watch a college women’s basketball game than the college men game because women play a fundamentally sound game. It’s the way it’s suppose to be played, on the floor, not in the air.

The men use their athletic skills to cover up their basketball flaws and Americans love it, its brawn over brains. Doctor James Naismith would not be pleased with the male evolution and style of this wonderful game.