Tonight the college basketball season will end with NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship in St. Louis.
Connecticut is undefeated at 38-0 and will almost certainly claim a perfect season and its sixth national championship in perhaps an even more dominating fashion than North Carolina blew away Michigan State for the men’s title last night. UConn is playing Big East foe Louisville for the title and already pounded the Cardinals twice by margins of 28 and 39 points.
As impressive and noteworthy as such dominance is, there’s at least as much to be said about taking a program mired in defeat and turning that into a winner. That is what stands out to me professionally for Jane Albright, who was honored for her long-standing work by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes this weekend at the Final Four.
Albright coaches Nevada and was recognized for her work with FCA and other ministries over 24 years in coaching with the presentation of the Kay Yow Heart of a Coach Award. Yow was the long-time North Carolina State coach who publicly battled breast cancer before dying Jan. 24.
Albright’s greatest professional success came in turning around the program at Wisconsin. Many years ago I covered Big Ten women’s basketball and counting on the Badgers to be one of the doormats of the league was predictable. The turnaround under Albright was immediate, with five NCAA Tournament appearances in seven years, also putting Wisconsin into the top 10 in attendance. The high level of play and filled seats were something unknown in Madison beforehand.
During her first season with Nevada this year, the Wolf Pack fell just short of an NCAA Tournament bid, losing in the Western Athletic Conference Tournament championship game.
It’s great to see new programs enjoy success to keep the game fresh and competitive. When the leadership does it in a way they’re recognized for their faith, it makes it even better.