McGraw Makes March Madness a Fight for the Championship and Equality
Madeline Hubbard ‘19
In an increasingly polarizing world nothing is as it seems and the fight for ideals bleeds into all aspects of life. A political statement can come from anywhere or anyone and the basketball court can be a platform for change. Muffet McGraw, the Notre Dame women’s basketball Head Coach certainly believes this to be true. In a recent press conference where her team made it to the final four match, she discussed her thoughts on women in power and the importance of female leaders. McGraw has been coaching at Notre Dame for over 32 seasons. She is known for her strong leadership and confident presence on and off the court leading Notre Dame to the Final Four nine times and the championship round of March Madness seven times. In that regard this season was no different with Notre Dame falling to Baylor by one point on Sunday the game ending 81-82. Although this season ended with a loss, I think McGraw would agree that the conversation surrounding more women in head coaching positions is a win.
Seven years ago, McGraw made the decision to hire only female coaches from then on to combat the overwhelming majority of men holding positions of power coaching women’s sports and Men’s sports. Many other coaches attempt to use their prominent positions to push for change in hiring more women, but none more aggressively than McGraw and VanDerveer whose footsteps she follows. Tara VanDerveer hasn’t had a male on her coaching staff since 1985 and has said, “I actually think that all basketball staffs, male and female, would benefit from having both men and women on them, but because we’re not included in men’s basketball, I feel a responsibility to help develop women in women’s basketball.” As a white, married, heterosexual, successful coach, McGraw uses her privilege to speak out against these issues in ways other women could not. McGraw acknowledges that we need more diversity in our hires and also that “people hire people who look like them”, so we need more diverse Athletic directors. In the 2019 tournament, 100% of the head coaches were male for the men’s bracket and 38% in the Women’s bracket. Women also hold just 1 out of every 4.5 collegiate coaching jobs.
McGraw who regularly dresses in bold prints, colors and feminine is easily riled up when asked about her outfit choices for the game something that is never asked of her male counterparts. She also acknowledges that despite her aggressive coaching she is still held to a double standard unable to say or do things that are never questioned from male coaches. She says she is unable to show her anger and yell in the same way men are allowed because these are assigned as typically male actions. McGraw noted, “[Men] can say a lot of stuff to his players that I could not get away with saying to my players, because they expect a man to be, you know, not nice, not compassionate, not sympathetic, not any of those things, and they expect women to be different. And that’s, that’s where the problem is, is the way people expect us to be a certain way.”
Last Thursday, McGraw spoke out against the gender disparity in positions of power in a press conference lamenting, “"I'm getting tired of the novelty of ... the first female governor of this state. The first female African-American mayor of this city. When is it going to become the norm instead of the exception? How are these young women looking up and seeing someone that looks like them, preparing them for the future? We don't have enough female role models. We don't have enough visible women leaders. We don't have enough women in power." McGraw goes on to assert that there is no better place for women to turn the table and hold positions of power than in sports. A champion of women’s rights and in women’s basketball Muffet McGraw continues to inspire a new generation of women to fight for positions of power and challenge the status quo.