Cheyney State's Lady Wolves went 25-5 last season and made it all the way to the NCAA Final Four before losing 82-73 to Tennessee in the semis. Let's listen in as a successful big-time women's coach, Cheyney State's Winthrop McGriff, and the school president, C.T. Enus Wright, hammer out the team's budget for 1984-85:
"I think the girls need new uniforms," says McGriff, 34, an immense—6'3", 250 pounds—and animated fellow in his second season with the Lady Wolves.
"Hmmm," says Wright. "Let's see how the old ones are holding up."
McGriff lumbers out of Wright's office and comes back with a boxful of game uniforms. They were new in 1974, but Wright examines each piece of clothing as if he were appraising objets d'art. He holds up to the light a pair of shorts with faded blue side stripes. "O.K.," he says. "This pair's had it."
That's one for McGriff. Now Wright inspects a jersey, from which the CHEYNEY STATE appliqu� has been all but chafed away. "This one has a few games left in it," Wright says. McGriff grimaces. Another singlet is four shades bluer than any of the others. "Why, this one's as good as new," says Wright. He continues until nine of 12 uniforms have been pronounced fit for one more season.
Wait a minute. This seems more like a bankrupt high school program than an NCAA semifinalist. Why is Cheyney State, a school whose team has ranked with the likes of USC and Georgia, throwing around nickels and dimes as though they were manhole covers? Because that's the way things must be at Cheyney, an institution with 1,800 students, most of them black, located some 30 miles outside Philadelphia. "We're held together with Krazy Glue and Band-Aids," McGriff says. And sewing machines.
Cheyney State offers no athletic scholarships to men or women. Every player, however, receives some sort of need-based grant-in-aid. Each also pitches in doing on-campus jobs, like tending the grounds or waiting on tables. "There are no magic-carpet rides," says McGriff. "Most of the girls could have gotten athletic scholarships at other schools, but they're here because they want to be."
Why? It certainly isn't the athletic facilities. "You mean the a-reen-a?" McGriff says with a sonic boom of a laugh. He shoves open the door to a shabby gym that seats 2,500 people. One gets the feeling that a sock hop might break out at any minute. Clearly, playing for the Lady Wolves means learning to live with austerity. Training-table meals? "Every game," McGriff says. "Macaroni and cheese, chicken and broccoli. Blech!" Travel? "Well..." he says, "if someone invites us somewhere, we'll take the big bird." That is, as long as the host is willing to pick up the airfare. "Otherwise, vans."
McGriff is assisted part time by Jacqueline Thompson, a math teacher at Olney High in Philly. She and McGriff share a cinderblock office that is nothing more than a glorified broom closet. On the desk, buried beneath stacks of papers, is-a black telephone, the Cheyney State recruiting tool.
"Money isn't everything," says forward Ann Strong. "It can't buy togetherness. We have togetherness. It can't buy fun. We have fun. And there's heart out there. We want to win. Very badly."