April 7, 2009
ST. LOUIS – Notre Dame head women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw officially accepted the 2009 Carol Eckman Award from the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) during the organization’s annual awards luncheon on Tuesday afternoon at the Hyatt Regency Riverfront Hotel in St. Louis.
The Carol Eckman Award is presented annually to an active WBCA coach who exemplifies Eckman’s spirit, integrity and character through sportsmanship, commitment to the student-athlete, honesty, ethical behavior, courage and dedication to purpose. The award is named in honor of the late Carol Eckman, the former West Chester (Pa.) State College coach who is considered the “Mother of the Women’s Collegiate Basketball Championship.” Eckman organized the first women’s basketball championship at West Chester in 1969 and continued to garner recognition and support for the women’s game until her death from cancer in 1985.
Joining McGraw at Tuesday’s awards luncheon were her husband, Matt, and all the members of her current staff at Notre Dame — associate head coach Jonathan Tsipis, assistant coaches Angie (Potthoff) Barber and Niele Ivey, and coordinator of basketball operations Stephanie Menio. In addition, three of McGraw’s former assistant coaches (all of whom are now Division I head coaches) were on hand for the ceremony — Kevin McGuff (now at Xavier), Carol Owens (Northern Illinois) and Coquese Washington (Penn State).
McGraw, herself a native of West Chester, Pa., is the second BIG EAST Conference coach in as many years to receive the Carol Eckman Award, following the selection of DePaul’s Doug Bruno in 2008. McGraw and Bruno have served together on the WBCA’s Board of Directors in recent years, with Bruno completing his two-year term (2005-06 to 2007-08) as the association’s president, while McGraw has been the Board’s NCAA Division I Legislative Chair since June 2005, when Bruno appointed her to the post.
Now in its 24th year, the WBCA’s Carol Eckman Award has honored some of the greats in women’s college basketball. In addition to Bruno, the list of recipients includes: Theresa Grentz, University of Illinois (2007); Gail Goestenkors, Duke University (2006); Bonnie Henrickson, University of Kansas (2005); Deirdre Kane, West Chester University (2004); Marsha Sharp, Texas Tech University (2003); Barbara Stevens, Bentley College (2002); Juliene Simpson, East Stroudsburg University (2001); Kathy Delaney-Smith, Harvard University (2000); Susan Summons, Miami-Dade (Fla.) Community College (1999); Kay James, University of Southern Mississippi (1998); Amy Ruley, North Dakota State University (1997); Dr. Joann Rutherford, University of Missouri (1996); Ceal Barry, University of Colorado (1995); the late Sue Gunter, Louisiana State University (1994); C. Vivian Stringer, University of Iowa (1993); Dr. Jill Hutchison, Illinois State University (1992); Marian Washington, University of Kansas (1991); Maryalyce Jeremiah, Cal State Fullerton (1990); Linda Hill-MacDonald, University of Minnesota (1989); the late Kay Yow, North Carolina State University (1988); Jody Conradt, University of Texas (1987), and Laura Mapp, Bridgewater College (1986).
McGraw is one of only eight active Division I coaches to guide her team to a national title — winning the crown in 2001 in St. Louis. Her teams have also appeared in the NCAA Women’s Final Four in 1997 and have made seven trips to the NCAA Sweet 16 and 16 NCAA Tournament appearances, including a current string of 14 consecutive berths.
However, no other statistic provides more evidence of McGraw’s commitment to the student-athlete than her 100 percent graduation rate, a spotless 57-for-57, since arriving at Notre Dame in the summer of 1987.
Under McGraw’s guidance the past 14 seasons (1996-2009), the Irish have compiled an impressive 337-117 (.742) record, including a 176-56 (.759) regular-season mark in the BIG EAST, the second-best winning percentage in league history. She has coached an impressive 21 Irish players who have garnered all-conference honors, three conference players-of-the-year and rookies-of-the-year and 19 conference all-rookie team selections. No less than 16 Notre Dame student-athletes have gone on to play professionally, including nine who have either been drafted or signed as free agents with WNBA teams.
On the national level, McGraw has been widely regarded as a champion for student-athletes. In June 2002, McGraw accepted an invitation from U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige to join the Commission on Opportunity in Athletics and with this appointment became the only women’s basketball coach on the Commission. During the summer of 2004, McGraw served on the WBCA’s Special Committee on Recruiting and Access, which helped create numerous proposals to the NCAA that clarified and strengthened national recruiting guidelines.
On top of her tireless work at Notre Dame, McGraw often is called upon to be a featured speaker at various camps, luncheons and other fund-raisers around the country. For several years, she has been a co-chair for the annual “Run, Jan, Run” golf tournament, which benefits local chapters of the YWCA. McGraw also has helped coordinate the annual Coaches’ Car Wash, with proceeds going to the University’s fund-raising efforts for United Way, and in the summer of 2006, she served as honorary chair of “Jazz on the Terrace,” a concert and silent auction with proceeds benefitting the RiverBend Cancer Services in Michigan.
Notre Dame posted a 22-9 record in 2008-09, including a 10-6 record in the BIG EAST, tying for fourth place in the nation’s toughest conference. The Irish also logged their 15th 20-win season in the past 16 years and made their 14th consecutive NCAA Championship appearance. Notre Dame will return all 12 players, including all five starters next season, as well as a pair of talented freshmen in 2009 Gatorade and Naismith High School Player of the Year/Indiana Miss Basketball/McDonald’s and WBCA High School All-America Game MVP Skylar Diggins (South Bend, Ind./Washington) and three-time all-state selection Kaila Turner (Joliet, Ill./Marian Catholic).
— ND —