Here’s to Muffet McGraw
Observer Editorial Board | Friday, April 4, 2014
Knute Rockne, Frank Leahy, Ara Parseghian and Lou Holtz — these are the names that stand out as the most influential coaches in Notre Dame history. We believe that another name should be added to this list: Muffet McGraw.
During her 27 seasons as Notre Dame women’s basketball head coach, McGraw has become as quintessentially Notre Dame as the Golden Dome, and for good reason. With 662 victories in her time at Notre Dame, she is the winningest basketball coach in Irish history, and she is perhaps the most beloved.
McGraw has garnered respect with her sincerity and her passion for the sport. Beyond the hearts of the Irish, she has been nationally recognized for her ability to achieve consistency year in and year out, relying on unselfish starters and contributing bench players. She’s received no shortage of coach-of-the-year honors, most recently sweeping the four 2013 awards as Associated Press, WBCA, Naismith and USBWA Coach of the Year, and is a finalist for the 2014 Naismith College Coach of the Year
There’s no denying her success. As of this week, Notre Dame is now the sixth school in history to reach the women’s Final Four in four straight seasons,. While some analysts predicted that this season would be a rebuilding year for the team, the 2013-14 Irish have achieved the longest winning streak maintained by any Notre Dame team in any sport since World War II.
What truly sets McGraw apart, however, is her consistent embodiment of the Notre Dame mission. Not only does her coaching promote success on the court, but in the past seven years, every single one of McGraw’s players graduated with a degree from the University. Notre Dame is one of only four programs to play for a national title and achieve a 100-percent graduation rate in the same season.
Some of McGraw’s biggest victories have come off the court as well. She frequently travels across the country as a featured speaker at fundraisers and events. Within the Greater South Bend area, she has been involved with countless charities — assisting with food pantries, supporting cancer research, collecting books for local schools and co-chairing the annual South Bend YWCA benefit “Run, Jane, Run” golf tournament.
McGraw’s unique talent extends beyond wins or losses. She serves this community as a mentor and role model, not only for female basketball players, not only for athletes, but also for all leaders. Throughout this year, the Notre Dame forum has centered on women in leadership, and we believe McGraw to be a remarkable role model for women and men alike, beyond the basketball court. While many college coaches are able to lead their teams, few are able to have as immense of an impact on an entire university as McGraw does. We think of her dedication to the development of her players, her devotion to service and compassion and her commitment to the Notre Dame women’s basketball program, and we see these virtues cementing McGraw’s place in the hall of legendary Notre Dame coaches.
As the Irish head to Nashville, Tenn., this weekend to face Maryland in the Final Four, all of us will be rooting for the team to win: rooting for the players, of course, but perhaps more than ever, rooting for coach Muffet McGraw.