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.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Guru's Time Machine -- Connecticut Suspended?

By Mel Greenberg

Relax, the headline is not news, just a device to entrap those boneyard readers up North into keeping up traffic here in a slow period.

But it is time again for golden oldie Guru items of the past and we'll soon get to the one involving the headline on this post.

The Guru told you he is busy at the moment in the Inquirer's electronic and regular library picking apart the bones of his journalistic past for the purposes of reprint and decoration at the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame induction weekend ceremonies, June 8-9, and the ensuing Philadelphia party at a date soon to be determined.

Some previous stories of the past were run at this site in the fall when we were in down time from WNBA and collegiate coverage.

Being in that mode again, the Guru would like you to know he took a tour of the actual newspaper clippings of his old pre-computer age byline file, long before the birth of any of our blog site team members, and was fascinated at some of the stuff that was covered.

We even found our first-ever byline, we think, back in 1974.

The pre-computer clippings can't be posted, as of right now, but we found some interesting items we covered, such as the hirings of Rene Portland at St. Joseph's and Theresa Grentz, who had been with the Hawks, at Rutgers. Grentz's new position is also noted as landmark in that she wasn't required to do other duties besides coach the Rutgers women.

We also found a story we noted out of Tennessee in which we mentioned that then-football coach Johnny Majors had been "kidnapped" by a campus sorority and made an appeal on TV for donations to their cause so he could be returned to be with his team.

And what was their cause? Well, they raised some $15,000 dollars as part of proceeds involved so that the varsity women -- women's basketball was specified -- could purchase their own bus.

Who knew then that coach Pat Summitt would go on to make enough money to be able to actually go out and purchase her own fleet.

We found our first news-breaker in the sport -- Immaculata coach Cathy Rush revealing she had been approached by Maryland to become their coach and was going to be interviewed. -- Chris Weller, then an assistant, was eventually promoted.

We found coverage of an AIAW convention in which the prime story was the elimination of all forms of recruiting, but the legislation also had, as the Guru noted, "a loophole as big as a hangman's noose.''

If a person as part of their job did general recruiting for a school involving non-athletic students, then that same person could get involved in recruiting athletes.

We learned that here in Philadelphia we reported that La Salle was the first Big Five school to give out athletic scholarships to women and it was done when the school had gone co-ed several years before Title IX became a reality.

We also found coverage of our first two national tournaments -- both AIAW -- which occurred in 1976 at Penn State and in 1977 at Minneapolis.

Under the headline, ``Something new at Old Dominion," we interviewed one Nancy Lieberman who was settling in with the Monarchs in Norfolk, Va., after having been the No. 1 target of coaches around the country.

There's also coverage of Cathy Rush's resignation, which became retirement, from Immaculata.

Hmmm, wonder if the crew in the area filming the Immaculata movie are aware of this clip. There may yet be a walk-on role for the Guru.

There's an account of Carol Blazejowsi's 52-point performance in Madison Square Garden for Montclair State in a 102-91 victory over Queens. The Blaze, now the GM of the WNBA's New York Liberty, shot 17-for-21, in the second half after Queens had changed defenses on her.

At least that's the way WNBA president Donna Orender tells the story after drawing the defensive assignment on Blaze for the first half. (Hi prez!).

We were there because of what was supposed to be the top attraction in the second game. But the outcome of Delta State's 79-62 victory over Immaculata made the Blaze performance the only item worth covering, unless, of course, you were from Mississippi.

We found another one for you Penn State fans and, Jen Rizzotti, if you're reading this, it's about your Hartford athletic director, Pat Meiser-McKnett, when she was then coach of the Nittany Lions and her team had just beaten Immaculata at State College to become nationally ranked.

The story notes that on the day of the game she awoke at 8 a.m. to rush and teach dance class and then hurry home to "dress her year-old daughter, Julie, and feed her breakfast.

"Somewhere among the diapering, coffee-brewing, spoon-feeding, and egg-scrambling, Meiser found time to scribble a few plays for the 1 p.m. game that would bring victory and -- ultimately -- a 15th place ranking in this week's top 20.''

In terms of drawing talent, Meiser (no McKnett back then) noted, "I think that Penn State's record of academic and athletic excellence is a selling item. We feel that once a kid gets to see our place, we've got her. The problem, of course, is getting her here to look."

(Guru's note -- This was the pre-Bryce Jordan Center-era in the days of Rec Hall.).

Then came this comment from center Mary Donovan, whose younger sister Anne, later went to Old Dominion and went to coach the Seattle Storm to a WNBA title and is now also coach of the U.S. Olympic squad for the 2008 games in Bejing, China.

"The people seemed so different here. I really liked it (the campus) when I came to see it."

And moving back to the electronic treasurer chest, here's that Connecticut story which occurred long before people could spell Geno Auriemma on a regular basis from a time before his hire.

It was a result of the battle in the final months of the war between the AIAW and NCAA over control of women's athletics. It was another of our weekly women's sports columns, which also has a poll on the bottom.



(Mar 03, 1981)

By Mel Greenberg

Special to The Inquirer

The Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) leadership
appears to be carrying out a vendetta against those people and schools that
supported NCAA sponsorship of women's championships.

Connecticut athletic director John Toner was in court yesterday seeking an
injunction against AIAW, which suspended his school from the organization over
a student-eligibility issue - the strongest action ever taken against a
member school.

Toner was recently elected secretary-treasurer of the NCAA
and was on the NCAA governance committee that produced the legislation that
brought women into all levels of the NCAA .

" All we want is due process from AIAW and we'll abide by whatever decision
they make," Toner said last night. " But if we don't receive due process, then
I'm prepared to say some pretty heavy stuff after Wednesday's hearing. "

There was no court decision but Connecticut was given a stay of suspension
until a hearing at a special AIAW executive board meeting in Washington

The basketball team, meanwhile, was selected as the eighth seed in
the New England regional.

At that same executive board meeting there will be an attempt to remove New
Mexico women's athletic director Linda Estes, the Intermountain region
representative. Estes was recently named to the NCAA Executive Committee.

The AIAW views the appointment as a conflict of interest. NCAA officials point
out, however, that their organization has had people serving in the council
and also in committees of the NAIA.

AIAW President Donna Lopiano stated in a letter to Estes that legal counsel
Margo Polivy advised that it would be inappropriate for Estes to vote on her
own removal.

" The executive committee will recommend to the board that an interim bylaw
be adopted to permit removal of a member of the board 'for cause' by a two-
thirds vote of the board without referral to any other body," the letter

Polivy, whose law firm is paid more than $140,000, is the real power in AIAW
- to the point that many people have confused her role with executive director
Ann Uhlir.

Tomorrow's action is so secretive that most of the AIAW membership is
unaware of it.

But people who are aware, such as UCLA senior association
athletic director Judith Holland - a former AIAW president - are so incensed
that they are prepared to organize an " economic boycott" of AIAW if Estes is

" This action goes against everything AIAW has stood for," said Holland, who
was recently appointed to the NCAA Council. " Maybe the leadership really does
have a death wish.

" We're going to barrage them with telegrams to try and stop the action.
I've been on the phone all day calling people to let them know what's going

" If I didn't care about AIAW I wouldn't be doing this. The people who don't
care are the people who are acting against Connecticut and Estes. "

The top 20 women's basketball poll is useful, but cannot serve as the
definitive guide to seeding this year's nationals. A mere check of the
strength of schedules of this week's list of teams demonstrates the point
rather well.

Quality opponents are considered to be 17 teams that have been ranked most
of the season. Using these 17 as a standard, schools have performed as

Top-ranked Louisiana Tech is 10-0 against the toughies - once again proving
its worth as the No. 1 team. Tech is also 6-0 on the road over this group.

Second-ranked Long Beach State is 7-5, which includes two wins over Kansas
and a split with UCLA and Southern California. Third-ranked Tennessee is 6-4
and the Vols also have a loss to unranked Alabama. Fourth-ranked Kansas is 3-
3, which includes the Long Beach defeats.

Rutgers is 3-4 with wins over Long Beach State, North Carolina State and
Kentucky. Losses have come to Cheyney State, Maryland, Louisiana Tech and Old
Dominion. The latter school, which is the two-time defending national
champion, is 9-5 against the sweet 17.

Cheyney State's 2-1 record is built with wins over Maryland and Rutgers. The
loss was to North Carolina State. By comparison, eighth-ranked UCLA is 6-4.
Ninth-ranked Southern California has only beaten Long Beach State for a 1-6
record. Kentucky has an overtime win over South Carolina against losses to
Rutgers and Tennessee for a 1-2 record.

Sub-top 10 teams have played tougher schedules than some of their higher-
ranked counterparts. Lack of victories, however, have kept them from moving
higher. The records:

Maryland is 4-6, while Texas, at 1-5, has two losses to Old Dominion. South
Carolina is 6-4, Clemson is 5-3, but most of the wins of the two schools have
come at home. Oregon is 1-4, North Carolina State is 6-6.

Stephen F. Austin is 1-5 and also has several losses to unranked teams,
Virginia is 1-7 and Auburn is 1-2. East Carolina is 3-3.

Besides the top 20, the performance of this week's two honorable mentions
are also worth noting. Colorado is 0-2, while Penn State is 2-4, depending on
who is ruling or not ruling on the Maryland forfeited (Or is it
discontinued?) game.

(Guru's note -- this was the infamous band game in which Weller pulled the Terrapins pulled the Terrapins off the floor contending the AIAW role prohibiting music during the action was being violated. Penn State had a big lead near the end of the contest.)

State also has three losses to unranked teams.

This week's top 20 rankings (through Feb. 28) showing first-place votes in
parentheses, season records and points.

Team Record Pts.

1. Louisiana Tech (50) 27-0 1,500
2. Long Beach State 23-5 1,366
3. Tennessee 19-5 1,234
4. Kansas 24-4 1,200
5. Rutgers 24-4 1,074
6. Old Dominion 21-5 990
7. Cheyney State 22-2 890
8. UCLA 23-6 808
9. Southern Calif. 20-6 678
10. Kentucky 21-4 601
11. Texas 26-6 490
12. Oregon 22-5 484
13. Maryland 16-7 391
14. South Carolina 20-7 367
15. Minnesota 25-5 290
16. North Carolina State 17-9 257
17. East Carolina 22-5 173
18. Clemson 22-7 142
19. Auburn 25-5 87
20. Stephen F. Austin 21-9 64
(tie) Virginia 21-8 64
Other teams named on at least 15 ballots in alphabetical order: Colorado,
Penn State
(c) 1981 , Mel Greenberg

* * *

One note in the current time because we didn't see it noted at our sites and message boards. The wire service reported Tuesday night that Notre Dame head coach Muffett McGraw signed a two-year extension.

And on a second note, we recant our critique of Jonathan's video work at Philly.com we alluded to in the previous post after seeing the tiny size of the camera.

(Thanks -- the aforementioned, who's up this late waiting for some other sports to come to an end for the night as part of his website duties)

-- Mel


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