Breaking ground in a Mighty way

By Sean Collins
October 18, 2012

The story of a groundbreaking women’s basketball program from a Catholic college during a period of transition and change was the main focus of an author’s visit to the College on Monday, Oct. 8.

Julie Byrne, author of the book “O God of Players” and Hofstra University scholar gave a presentation entitled “Ten Years Later, The Book, Movie, And What’s Next,” a story about the 1972 Immaculata College Mighty Macs women’s basketball team. Byrne described basketball as “wholly and enthusiastically supported by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.”

“Catholicism and pleasure were not assumed to go together,” Bryne said. She also quoted Robert Worsey describing the time for Catholic women as “a time of suffering.”

“Through basketball, the women were doing things with their bodies differently,” Byrne said. “The mere fact of running, sweating, pushing other girls was just a really different thing for Catholic girls to do in an atmosphere when they were supposed to be nice, sweet and gentle like the Virgin Mary.”

Although this type of behavior was so surprising, the parents of these women loved and supported what they were doing.

“The most dramatic thing they did was protest the very constraining uniforms they had to wear,” Byrne said.

Byrne talked about reasons why the uniforms were so disliked by team members including getting rid of the black leggings, which were uncomfortable and impractical. Byrne also went on to describe the sexual revolution taking place on campus.

“I got the sense that it was more acceptable for girls to have boyfriends with whom they went out on dates,” Byrne said. “It was more acceptable to go a little farther with the boys than it would have been a decade earlier.”

Byrne also talked about how people were more open to alternative sexuality.  A prime example of this were players from the Mighty Macs.

“There were all types of sexual orientations on the team., Byrne said.

Byrne describes the differences between the decades, stating girls with different sexualities were perceived as simply going through a phase. Talking more about Immaculata’s campus, when Byrne was asked about the ecological movement she stated it didn’t hit the campus during this period of time.

Byrne went on to describe Mary Ann Crawford, a point guard for the Mighty Macs during this time. Crawford is an inductee in the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame and an example of the sexual revolution going on during the time. Years later, Crawford would come out as a lesbian, despite having a child from a previous relationship.

This proved to be a more than successful time for the Mighty Macs, which was ironically enough, a time when women’s rights were fought for in America. The Mighty Macs went on to be the first female sports team ever to out sell Madison Square Garden in New York City.


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Sean Collins

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