Thursday, March 8, 2018

International Women's Day: Meet Coach Muffet McGraw

Today, International Women's Day is "a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women." I would like to take the opportunity of IWD to:
  1. celebrate the example of one female coach and 
  2. continue my call and quest for more female coaches...and how these might be related.
If I were to create Mt. Rushmore of coaches at the University of Notre Dame, it would be utterly incomplete without the face of Coach Muffet McGraw. Coach McGraw now in her 31st season with the Irish has a stellar record of 765-227 (.771) and one national championship title to her name. As written on the ND website
McGraw's post at Notre Dame was further enhanced on Feb. 16, 2015, when one of her former players, point guard Karen (Robinson) Keyes ('91) and her husband, Kevin, made a $5 million gift to their alma mater to endow its head women's basketball coaching position, now known as the Karen and Kevin Keyes Family Head Women's Basketball Coach. It's also believed to be the largest endowment gift of its kind in NCAA women's basketball history, as well as the first endowed coaching position of any sort in Notre Dame athletics history. 
According to the International Women's Day's website, March 8, also "marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity." This distinction for both the position of coaching at Notre Dame and to Coach McGraw was made possible through the ardent efforts of the Advancement Office of Irish Athletics (under the Development Office) What a wonderful way to advance IWD's cause.
The accolades on the coaching profile webpage for Muffet McGraw are prolific. On one hand, words cannot capture what she is and has been as a coach, a mentor and a face for women's hoops. The page opens with her record, her tenure, and the following:
"If we searched for an entire year. I don't think we would find anyone better suited for our program."
With those words, former Notre Dame director of athletics Gene Corrigan announced the hiring of Muffet McGraw as the third head coach of the Fighting Irish women's basketball program on May 18, 1987. Corrigan may not have realized it at the time, but he also ushered in an era of unparalleled success in women's basketball at Notre Dame, brought to life on the shoulders of a 5-foot-6 dynamo who accepts nothing less than the very best from herself, her players and her program. Ask anyone familiar with women's basketball about Muffet McGraw and her Notre Dame program and inevitably, you'll hear the same two words -- consistency and excellence. And it's no wonder, when you consider what McGraw and the Fighting Irish have achieved in the past 30 seasons: 
With all due respect to Mr. Corrigan, I think "an entire year" is an understatement. They would not have found the likes of McGraw in a lifetime. However, if it's up to Coach McGraw they can and they will again.

Every level of basketball--from high school on up to the league now has upwards of four, six or eight coaches on staff. Though puzzling to me, I know that each coach has his or her specialty and purpose. Unlike many womens' D1 sports program, all seven coaches associated with Notre Dame women's basketball team are female. This is not a new trend. Many are former players. Some are moms, others are wives, partners etc. In the past, some have left to become head coaches; others will in the future. This attribute ought to be linked to the legacy of Coach Muffet McGraw.
At Notre Dame, we already have a Grotto, a Golden Dome, two lakes--not one, and the best fight song in all of collegiate sports. The campus--the flora and fauna, the grounds, the architecture is resplendent in its beauty. Artwork and statues enhance the aesthetic and find their own way of telling the story that is Notre Dame. 

For example, outside of the Hesburgh Library, the imposing and prophetic Moses stands strong. He led the Israelites to freedom...and he calls attention to the fact we are number one. Father William Corby, two-time President of Notre Dame was also chaplain to the Union Army. He is captured blessing the Irish Brigade in the American Civil War. On game day, Irish faithful refer to him as "First Down Corby." Our Lady stands on top of the Golden Dome, outside of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart (as the protector of unborn children) and adjacent to the Alumni Welcome Center with her cousin Elizabeth. "The Visitation," designed by Holy Cross Priest, Father Austin Collins, signifies pilgrimage and journey, welcome and hospitality. On a daily basis, alumni, parents, fans, and tourists travel to South Bend, Indiana to visit what can only be seen, heard, touched and felt at Notre Dame. Making a sincere case for a Mt. Rushmore of our coaches would be futile. However, on International Women's Day, I would like to call attention to the fact were we to create such a monument, the Mt. Rushmore of Coaches of  the Fighting Irish would include one woman among the four faces. And, her career is not yet over—the best, may be yet to come. Thank you, Coach McGraw, for your example, for sharing your gifts and for the legacy have created and are living!. 

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