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’tweren’t easy last year, and it looks like it ain’t going to be easier this year. Amidst conflicting stories (Pat Summitt Says Tennessee Forced Her Out As Women’s Basketball Coach and Summitt says she wasn’t forced out at Tennessee), Holly tries to move forward (Lady Vols first official basketball practice up-tempo) and still honor the past: Pat Summitt at Lady Vols’ 1st practice.

Wonder if we’ll get a little Bobbitt-redux: Lady Vols juco transfer Jasmine Phillips out to prove she’s No. 1

Speaking of honoring the past: Statues unveiled of Pat Summitt, her UT Martin coach Nadine Gearin and former women’s AD Bettye Giles

’tis the season to be bronzed: Texas unveils statue to honor Hall of Fame women’s basketball coach Jody Conradt

Speaking of distractions: Auriemma seeks to dismiss security guard’s lawsuit

In Kentucky, Merlene is a bit cranky: Cal’s women’s clinic entertained fans, but didn’t help my hoops acumen

Then, the women watched a fashion show featuring the players in clothes bearing the UK logo. (I wonder: Do men who attend similar clinics get makeovers?)

On the West Coast, Cori Close and the Bruins try and build on last season: Women’s basketball holds first practice, stresses defense and discipline on the court

Interesting that this was “a first” for Oregon State: Women’s Basketball Hosts Successful Inaugural Tip-Off Dinner

Odd news at the high school level: Alston says he was fired over Chicken flap

Bishop Loughlin girls basketball coach Kasim Alston used the memory of Tayshana (Chicken) Murphy as the catalyst for the Lions’ run to a state Federation Class ‘A’ championship last March. Now, it seems that Alston’s request to have a one-day basketball event named in Murphy’s honor at the school was the cause for his dismissal on Sept.24.

better news: Basketball star Zabielski named to Ridgewood High School Hall of Fame

In the 1990’s, some of the best girls basketball in Bergen County was played, and Ridgewood High School was one of the premier programs of that era. Linda Zabielski was the player that set the bar and led the Ridgewood team that began what was a magical run for the Lady Maroons.

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a little flashback, courtesy of Title IX’s birthday: From Lee over at Full Court Press, Title IX: Former Texas Longhorn reflects on era of change

Hiss, who served as director of physical training for women at UT for 36 years, was an interesting character. In some respects, she was a pioneer. Her own promotion to that rank in the gender-biased culture of that era was no small accomplishment. Hiss made two years of physical education mandatory for every “co-ed,” as the women on campus were called at the time, and worked tirelessly to acquire resources for women’s athletics, raising $400,000 for construction the women’s gym and surrounding tennis courts and playing fields and establishing a vital intramural sports and physical education program for women that included a variety of activities from tennis and golf to archery, swimming, posture and interpretive dance.

At the same time, like her mentor, First Lady Lou Henry Hoover, one of the early heads of the Girl Scouts of America and one of the founders of the National Amateur Athletic Foundation, Hiss was adamantly opposed to team sports and intercollegiate competition for women.  Both Hiss and Hoover also actively campaigned against the inclusion of women’s sports in the Olympics, with partial success – though female Olympians competed in individual sports, the U.S. did not field its first Olympic women’s basketball team until 1976.

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Conradt, Hurley, Keady Receive Lapchick Award

The three people standing near the sculptured trophy of a man reaching down to a youngster have a lot in common.

For one day, the thousands of wins belonging to Jody Conradt, Bob Hurley Sr. and Gene Keady took a back seat. They received that trophy Thursday as winners of the third annual Joe Lapchick Character Award.

The coaches all talked about things like going to college, graduation rates and yes, the wins. There were plenty to talk about.

Calls for a little flashback:

A “FIELD” GROWS IN TEXAS

When Jody Conradt became head coach at the University of Texas in 1976, the program, not to mention all of collegiate women’s basketball, was in its infancy. The process of developing a fan base? Unexplored territory. Yet Texas grew into one of the nation’s top drawing teams, hosting 16,000 in the first sell-out of the 1985 Final Four.

“Like everyone else, we started out playing double-headers [with the men’s team],” recalled Conradt. “The women’s game would start at 5:00 or 5:30, and the thinking was the audience would come earlier. Obviously that didn’t work. After a year or so, we just said, ‘Hey, we have nothing to lose. Let’s play a game at a reasonable time when people can come. Let’s go out and sell our own season tickets.’”

To get people through the door, Conradt pounded the pavement. “All of those first years, I never said ‘no’ to a speaking engagement. I don’t know how many times I went out into the community, but I think I could have run for public office, shaking as many hands, kissing as many babies as I did,” she laughed. “I probably made personal contact with most of the people who became our fan base.”

Texas employed various marketing strategies, like picking specific games to ‘sell.’ “Games where the competition would be good and the play would be at a high level,” she explained. “Fortunately, at that time we had a rivalry with Stephen F. Austin. They were not ‘like’ institutions, but at that point in time, the teenie-weenies were better than the state schools,” admitted Conradt with a smile. Good friend Sue Gunter was the opposing coach and their collaboration drew crowds numbering in the high thousands.

“There’s no big secret to it,” insisted Conradt. “It was just about really working hard. (Then Athletic Director) Donna Lopiano and I have said it a million times: Men’s athletics are the bankers. Bank opens up at nine in the morning, it closes at four in the afternoon. The women are the insurance salesmen. You’ve got to find your audience and you’ve got to sell it.”

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