Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Acacia's Reporting at Vassar

Guru's Note: The following is a story Acacia recently wrote for her school newspaper at Vassar as the senior editor. We have been given permission to re-run it here so her new audience can view another sample of her work.

Meanwhile, on Friday the Guru covered Temple's buzzer-beating win over Villanova in a Big Five game that made it three games in three straight days under the Guru's name that went to the final minute.

And, oh yes, we were on the desk, but the Drexel men beat Temple Friday night. The male Dragons return to our hands next Thursday when they open Colonial Athletic Association play at home against George Mason, the team that went to the Final Four last season.

And now, here's Acacia's recent story.

-- Mel

Seven Sisters in Danger

Acacia O'Connor

Senior Editor

In the world of competitive athletics, it’s not often that athletes play a hard-fought game against an opponent, sometimes even losing, and then sit down elbow-to-elbow with them for dinner.

But for the teams that participate in the Seven Sisters Tournaments, the inter-team meal is an accepted, if not awkward, part of the long-standing tradition.

On Dec. 1, the Vassar women’s basketball team traveled to Haverford College for the 27th annual Seven Sisters Women’s Basketball Tournament. Going abroad next semester and therefore missing all of league play, I traveled with the team this year as their manager. I think many Vassar female athletes would agree with me when I say that Seven Sisters is a special tradition.

Unfortunately, this may have been the final basketball tournament between the schools, as a number of issues have caused coaches to rethink the format of the weekend.

Vassar is one of seven sister schools; that is, private American women’s colleges built between 1837 and 1889. The term was coined in 1927, in reference to the Pleiades seven sisters of ancient Greek mythos.

Today, only four of the seven are technically still single-sex institutions: Smith College, Bryn Mawr College, Wellesley College and Mount Holyoke College. Barnard College, though supposedly an independent school, is closely affiliated with Columbia University.

Vassar has been co-ed for 37 years, after refusing to be integrated with Yale University. Radcliffe College, the final sister school, accepted a similar offer made by Harvard University and has since been dissolved entirely.

The Seven Sisters Tournament was born around the same time as the implementation of Title IX, the controversial legislation ruling that colleges must offer equal athletic opportunities for both men and women.

Today only Smith, Bryn Mawr, Wellesley, Vassar, and Mount Holyoke participate in the tournaments, which are run for nearly all women’s sports.

In order to build the eight-team field of the tournament, three other schools are invited.

For several years, Swarthmore College, Haverford College and St. Joseph’s College in Connecticut have been the additional basketball competitors. But as of next year, Haverford and Swarthmore have indicated that they no longer wish to participate in the tournaments.

The decision to pull out of the competition rests on a variety of reasons. “Generally speaking, across the board it’s taxing,” said Tournament Director and Haverford women’s lacrosse Head Coach MaryAnne Schiller. “It’s taxing on our budgets, it’s taxing on our schedules.”

For Haverford, who is in the Centennial Conference with Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr, and for Mount Holyoke and Smith who are both in in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletics Conference, the tournament means risking playing an opponent three times in one season.

Playing three of the few allotted non-conference games in one tournament also takes away opportunities for teams to play other competitors.

More specifically, the basketball tournament comes at an extremely inconvenient time for college students. “There are parts [of the tournament] that I like,” said Jessica Fuhr ’07 of Swarthmore, sister of Vassar’s Shannon Fuhr ’09. “But it falls in a bad time in the academic year. It’s always right before finals.”

Sitting at the Saturday evening banquet, both sisters remarked how it would be disappointing if the tournament dissolved entirely.

We all joked about how for their father, a frequent fan at Vassar games, the tournament was like the Super Bowl, a chance to see both of his daughters play in three games in one weekend.

“I value the tradition of the tournament and what it represents: opportunity and competition for women,” said Schiller. “It saddens me that the future of it is uncertain. I hope the original schools work on a way to keep it alive in some form.”

Schiller added she was certain that athletic departments of the schools could find a way to hold onto the tradition of the tournaments if they thought creatively.

Did all of the female student-athletes eating in Bryn Mawr’s dining hall on Dec. 2 realize that this might be the last gathering of sister basketball teams?

Surely not.

It would be idealistic to call for the continuation of a tournament that, for many reasons, no longer makes logical sense.

But the tournament has been a great thing, a commemoration of strong women, like Schiller, whom it is hoped will continue to be observed in some regard.


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