Immaculata Celebrates 50th Anniversary of First Women’s College Basketball National Championship

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women's college basketball team
Image via Immaculata University.
The 1972 Immaculata women's basketball team.
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On Sunday, March 19, 1972, Immaculata University’s women’s basketball team etched its name into sports history as the first women’s college basketball national champions. The team won two additional titles in 1973 and 1974. The Mighty Macs continued their dominance, reaching the Final Four in the following three seasons, placing second in 1975 and 1976 and fourth in 1977.

The Immaculata Mighty Macs played a huge part in the evolution of women’s sports since the 1970s. Their Cinderella story was made into a Hollywood movie, The Mighty Macs. Several players continued their love of the game by becoming high-profile professional and collegiate coaches — making their mark from the sidelines. Other players became doctors, teachers, philanthropists, or businesswomen.

The 1972 victory is now a landmark moment in the history of college sports: the Mighty Macs were an underdog team from a small women’s college in suburban Philadelphia with a gym that burned to the ground years before. The women had to sell toothbrushes to fund their trip to Illinois for the first women’s national collegiate championship tournament. Even then, only eight of the 11 players could go, flying standby.

The players crowded four to a room and washed their wool uniforms in hotel sinks. They defeated South Dakota State University (60-47), Indiana State University (49-46), Mississippi State School for Women (46-43), and regional rival West Chester University (52-48). The Mighty Macs finished the season 24-1.

“To think that 11 young women and their equally young coach raised the profile and changed the perception of women’s sports is amazing. And that it happened at Immaculata University, which supported these students on the court and in the classroom, is beyond amazing,” said Immaculata President Barbara Lettiere. “I was a senior at Immaculata in 1972 and winning the championship that year is something I will never forget. Immaculata shocked the world of college sports, and the rest is history!”

To honor the 50th anniversary of that first championship, Immaculata is recognizing members of all three national championship teams during a campus celebration on Friday, March 18 from 12-3 PM. The Mighty Macs and their legendary coach, Cathy Rush, will celebrate this milestone with members of the campus community, the current women’s basketball team, and Tim Chambers, director of The Mighty Macs.

During March 14-20, the entire campus community will celebrate the Mighty Macs with various events and displays depicting the teams’ achievements. Discover more about the championship Mighty Macs. For more information about the 50th-anniversary event, e-mail lszyjka@immaculata.edu.

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