Until this year, the Association of Intercollegiate Athletic Women barred schools that competed for its titles from giving athletic grants. Now that the rule has been changed, Wayland plans to challenge two-time AIAW champion Immaculate of Pennsylvania. JFK still will be non grata since it is unaccredited.
Which explains in part why JFK staged the international tournament earlier this month. But what explains the presence in nearby Omaha of Team Canada, the National Women's Selection of Mexico and the Republic of China All-Stars is, first of all, JFK, and second, the chance for all four squads to polish their skills—the 1976 Olympics in Montreal will be the first to include women's basketball.
The opening game at the Omaha Civic Auditorium, in which Mexico beat China 53-49, showed that both those teams could use a lot of polishing. Averaging only 5'7", the Mexicans played a helter-skelter game against the well-schooled Chinese, who dribbled and passed with finesse but failed to move the ball inside for high-percentage shots and did not sink enough of their outside efforts. This shortcoming enabled the taller Canadians to beat them in their next game.
The Chinese and Mexican delegations were equally strong in contrasts off the court. The Chinese kept their players confined to the hotel until the games were completed. They watched the unfamiliar, enticing snowfall from behind plate-glass windows, so no one would catch cold in the below-zero weather. Only after losing to Team Canada were they allowed out, being escorted to a shopping center where they all bought dungarees.
The Mexican women enjoyed their first snowfall to the fullest. They rushed out of the arena after their first game and did their best to have a snowball fight. No one caught cold. In fact, Mexico's play improved in the hard-fought finale.
Kennedy won 68-50, despite a poor first half. Behind 31-25, the Patriettes rallied in the second half, running up a 20-3 edge during one eight-minute stretch. JFK's balanced attack was led by Wischmeier and Fincher with 15 points. Ahrenholtz had 12 and Simpson 9.
The Canadians, of course, were unimpressed with Nebraska's weather, having just come from training camp in Winnipeg. They are older than the Americans, ranging from 18 to 26, and equally tall and talented. With different pairings, Team Canada probably would have come in second.
As host country for the 1976 Olympics, Canada is assured of being one of six teams to compete in women's basketball. "We're guaranteed of being sixth best in the world," says Jack Donohue, who coached the women on this trip. Donohue, who coached at Holy Cross and before that at New York City's Power Memorial High School during the Alcindor years, was hired to coach Canada's men's team in anticipation of the Olympics.
"I'd never coached women before," he says. "I got this team together and told them, 'I don't know much about women. I had a mother and I knew her pretty well. I was in love 48 times before I was 15. I have a wife and four daughters, but I don't know anything about women your age. I know basketball players, so I'll consider this as basketball, comma, women, not women's basketball.' "
The road to the five remaining spots in the Olympics is rough. Three teams will qualify from the 1975 World Championships and two more from a pre-Olympic tournament. As for the U.S., it must first devise a method for selecting a national team. If this is not decided soon, most of the current crop of college players will be out of organized competition. In which case it will be back to the cow pastures for Coach Nicodemus. But he will be there anyway trying to bring credit to JFK.