Let’s Hear It for “The Mighty Macs”

Patti Maguire Armstrong

“The Mighty Macs” is an entertaining and emotionally powerful film—but if that’s not enough for you, here are ten good reasons to go see it.

  1. It’s a true story.
  2. There’s no swearing.
  3. You’ll leave smiling.
  4. It shows that anything is possible.
  5. You’ll see nuns in full habits on the screen.
  6. To support good, family films.
  7. This team made history and changed the face of women’s basketball.
  8. It’s fun, inspiring, and exciting.
  9. There are no other movies about women’s basketball.
  10. You’ll love it.

And for Catholics, I’ll add reason #1A: it’s so Catholic. The movie was written and directed by lifelong Catholic, Tim Chambers, about a Catholic university staffed by Sisters of the Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

A Cinderella-in-basketball-shoes story of an underdog earning the crown, “The Mighty Macs” is based on the true story of the 1971-72 Immaculata University women’s basketball team. Located just outside Philadelphia, this small Catholic women’s school did not even have a gymnasium that season; it had burned down the year before. Against all odds, the Mighty Macs won the country’s first National Women’s Basketball Championship—and went on to hold the title for three straight years.

After winning the championship three years in a row, Rush retired in 1977 to raise her family. Her record was 149 and 15. The school never did offer athletic scholarships to women—even after Title IX—so this Division III school is not able to attract top athletes.

Although it’s a formula sports story, it’s also a real-life happy ending. “The Mighty Macs” delivers the action viewers crave, but is also offers a glimpse into the past with all those 70s-era plaid bell-bottoms and a school staffed by nuns in full habits. The world was on the precipice of change and this women’s sports story became part of that history.

“They really captured the story,” Rush said. (And since the sisters of Immaculata were given final say on the script, it stayed squeaky clean.)

Writer/director/producer Tim Chambers is a hometown boy who had the connections to pull in the talent and financing to make the film. “I had been approached before by people who thought this story should be a movie, but not until Tim Chambers approached me did I believe it was really going to happen,” said Rush.

Actress Carla Gugino fits naturally into the role of Coach Rush. Ellen Burstyn, who has won Oscar, Tony, and Academy Awards, played Mother St. John convincingly enough to slip unnoticed into any convent.

The city of Philadelphia has rallied around this movie in a big way. Media coverage spans from the original reporting of the Mighty Macs’ road to the championship (a first for such coverage of women’s teams) to covering the production and world premiere. The movie was filmed in Pennsylvania—much of it at Immaculata, which is now co-ed.

“The Mighty Macs” is an uplifting film that captures the sport of women’s basketball during a time of purity–when basketball was played for basketball’s sake. There are few sports films about women’s teams and this one will inspire and entertain.

“The Mighty Macs” opens nationwide on Friday, October 21 and is rated G.