The women’s basketball players of Immaculata often washed their own uniforms. They flew standby to save money, and sold pencils and toothbrushes to finance travel costs to their first national tournament. A collection of pail-pounding nuns made up a raucous cheering section.
But the tiny Catholic school outside Philadelphia dominated women’s college basketball in the early 1970s.
“It was crazy: nuns in full habit banging on metal buckets and yelling for this team,” recalled Cathy Rush, who coached Immaculata to three consecutive national championships beginning in 1972. “We thought we were blessed.”
The advent of Title IX, the federal law that prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex in nearly every educational setting, made the era an expectant, revolutionary one for women’s athletics. Approaching a half-century later, though, women’s basketball is still struggling for full acceptance in the male-dominated world of college sports and in American society as a whole.