It's been more a quarter century since her passing, and
even longer since she got the first women's college basketball tournament
off the ground. But Carol Eckman is still commonly referred to as
the "Mother of National Collegiate Championships."
"Carol Eckman was one of the true pioneers of our sport and to be mentioned
in the same breath with her is particularly flattering," said current
Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw when she was given the prestigious
award named after Eckman by the Women's Basketball Coaches
Association in 2009.
Like previous Chester County Sports Hall of Fame inductees McGraw
(Bishop Shanahan graduate, 1973) and Marian Washington, one of her star players at West Chester,
Eckman is now being enshrined.
Although she only coached basketball at West Chester State for five seasons from 1967-72, Eckman
cemented her legacy as a tireless advocate and true visionary for women's basketball. And she was
also an excellent coach, amassing an astonishing 68-5 record at West Chester and four appearances in
the national title game from 1969-72.
"I think of her often and feel very blessed that I was able to play for her," said Linda Morgan, who
spent two seasons with Eckman at West Chester. "She has been a role model for me for a very long
time. I still remember the day I got a letter from her saying that she wanted to meet with me. It was a
dream come true.
"I hope when people talk about the history of women's basketball, they always remember Carol because
she was right there when it all started."
During her second season at WCU, Eckman established and organized a 16-team invitational designed
to crown the first women's national champion. Administered by the Commission on Intercollegiate
Athletics for Women (CIAW), which became the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women
(AIAW), the precursor to the NCAA, Eckman's West Chester team topped Western Carolina, 56-39, to
capture the inaugural historic title at Hollinger Field House.
"I came and watched some games of that tournament when I was a senior in high school," said Morgan,
who is currently the girls' basketball coach at Great Valley Middle School. "After that, it was the
only place I wanted to go to school.
"Carol was the backbone and did most of the legwork for that tournament. She knew the women's
game was getting to the point where it should be noticed more. It was a vision of hers for a long time
and she carried it through. That's a big reason I admire her so much."
West Chester also advanced to the next championship games in 1970-72, but dropped all three to Cal
State Fullerton, Mississippi State College, and Immaculata. Eckman spent the 1972-73 season at Indiana
(Pa.) followed by six seasons at Lock Haven. Her career record was 119-50.
"She was a very positive coach - not a screamer," Morgan said. "We did a lot of wind sprints for endurance,
but nobody ever felt like they didn't want to work for this woman. She had a way of making
you understand that working hard was important and would pay off later."
Eckman died of cancer in 1985, and the next year the WBCA unveiled the "Carol Eckman Award." Of
the 27 national recipients so far, six have close local ties, including McGraw, Washington, Immaculata's
Theresa Grentz, WCU's Deirdre Kane, Cheyney's Vivian Stringer and Linda Hill-McDonald, who
also played for Eckman.
"Carol Eckman was such a quality person," said former WCU Athletic Director Dick Yoder. "The girls
loved her and played very hard for her. She was one of the leaders on the national level and yet very