As the NCAA tournament rolls on, Monday will mark 40 years to the day since Rutgers won a hiostoric national championship.
On March 28, 1982 at the Palestra in Philadelphia, the Lady Knights – led by players like Mary and Patty Coyle, Chris Dailey, June Olkowski, and trailblazing head coach Theresa Grentz – beat heavily-favored Texas to win the final AIAW national title, in a year that was a crossroads for the sport.
That was also the first year the NCAA sponsored a national women’s basketball tournament, and women’s basketball programs were split. Some went with the NCAA, others stuck with the AIAW.
Since then, RU’s national title has largely been ignored. The NCAA, obviously, doesn’t recognize it, and Rutgers never really embraced it, particularly after Grentz left for Illinois in the mid-’90s (Athletic Director Fred Gruninger let her walk) and C. Vivian Stringer promised “the Jewel of the East.”
But in 2017, Rutgers’ campus radio station WRSU had the good fortune to connect with Jim Berman, Class of ’82, who had a cassette of the original audio broadcast. A few interviews and a lot of research later, the station aired a documentary – written and narrated by WRSU Sports junior Dom Savino – featuring the full game broadcast on Rutgers Day that year.
From that project, Berman and his classmates Jon Newman and Geoff Sadow had the idea to produce a film documentary on the team, calling it “Forgotten Champions.” The film would be completed over several years, narrated by U.S. National Soccer star (and Rutgers alum) Carli Lloyd, and it was set to debut this Winter at a gala in New Brunswick, but those plans were waylaid by the Omicron wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This Monday, in honor of the 40th anniversary of the historic title, WRSU will rebroadcast the original documentary, which includes the full game broadcast, at 6 pm. Immediately following, at 8:30 pm, a special “Alumni Knightline” will follow, hosted by Newman and Sadow, along with Berman and Savino, and they’ll be joined in studio by Grentz and the Coyle twins. Several other teammates and prominent figures from the era will phone in. And listeners are invited to share their memories by calling in at 732-932-8800.
To listen, tune in to 88.7 FM or click on wrsu.org.
Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko – Rutgers Class of ’00 and WRSU’s full-time faculty advisor – talk with 1982 alum Jim Berman about Monday’s show and the “Forgotten Champions” documentary: