Forgotten Champions


TYPE
: Documentary
GENRE: Documentary
STATUS: Production

LOGLINE

“Forgotten Champions” is the story of the 1981-1982 Rutgers Lady Knights basketball team which shocked the University of Texas Longhorns to win the final AIAW championship.

SYNOPSIS

We are raising money to produce a documentary on the 1982 Rutgers women's basketball team, the last team to win an AIAW national championship.

In the decade after the enactment of Title IX in 1972, major colleges and universities that previously had focused on men’s athletics scrambled to create equal opportunities for female students.

At Rutgers University in particular, Title IX came just two months before the school was set to turn coed, opening its doors to women. As a result, the athletics department embarked on a plan to add women’s sports, too—a journey that would soon place the Scarlet Knights on the national stage.

Forgotten Champions is the story of the 1981-82 Rutgers women’s basketball team, an underdog squad that shocked the powerful Texas Longhorns to win the AIAW national championship and punctuate a season of upheaval in the sport. It is the story of how Theresa Grentz, the All-American center who led tiny Immaculata College to three straight national titles from 1972-74, built Rutgers into a contender after becoming the nation’s first full-time collegiate women’s basketball coach in 1976, at age 24.

Above all, the film examines a pivotal moment in women’s sports history, when noble aspirations collided with economic interests to create a paradigm shift that continues to reverberate almost 40 years later. While Grentz and her players would go on to achieve great success in their future endeavors, both on the court and off, their championship season has largely become a footnote, an overlooked accomplishment that unfolded in the shadow of the NCAA’s takeover of the women’s game.

Our goal is to produce the film and debut it in 2020. The money will cover all production costs with any money left over being donated to Rutgers Athletics and WRSU-FM, the Rutgers student radio station whose play-by-play is featured in the film.

The 1982 Lady Knights championship remains the only Division 1 national title won by Rutgers in any team sport. And yet the story of this steadfast squad—its coaches and players and their place in sports history—has yet to be told. We hope that by sharing it now, by shining a light on these unsung pioneers, their voices will echo loudly for a new generation of athletes and fans eager to embrace the message of empowerment at the heart of the film. If you are a fan/supporter of women's college sports or sports in general please help support our efforts to chronicle the special contribution this team and its players made (and still make) to women's basketball.

ARTISTIC STATEMENT

Narrated by US Women's Soccer star and Rutgers Hall of Famer Carli Lloyd, the film opens with the members of the WRSU-FM Radio team at Olde Queens Tavern, the fabled bar adjacent to the Rutgers Campus, as they look back more than 35 years. As they begin talking, the memories start flowing. Transition to the final moments of the championship game using the WRSU radio call with never before seen game films. Back to modern day as Coach Theresa Grentz and team members gather to view these films for the first time, cheering at every crucial moment. Afterwards, they have a long awaited re-union and film session, dissecting their play and reminiscing about that amazing team.  

Our film then travels all way back to 1972 Immaculata footage and begins telling the story through Theresa Grentz’ POV, weaving in present day and archival interviews, game footage, newspaper clippings, radio calls, etc., all the way to the final bucket and celebrations.

The championship games were not televised. We have the official, never before seen team game films of the final and selected games from the season. 

The film features interviews with key members from that championship Rutgers squad, among them Coach Grentz, who won 681 games in her career; All-American forward June Olkowski, who also became a college coach; and team co-captain Chris Dailey, now the long-time associate head coach at the University of Connecticut, where she has won 11 national titles alongside Geno Auriemma. In addition, Forgotten Champions includes a trio of women’s sports icons: current Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer, former Texas coach Jody Conradt, and former Longhorns director of women’s athletics Donna Lopiano, who later led the Women’s Sports Foundation. Also interviewed are iconic basketball journalists Dick “Hoops” Weiss and Mel Greenberg, the father of the AP Women’s Top 20 Poll.

The documentary is being written & directed by former ESPN the Magazine executive editor Sue Hovey, who guided ESPN’s extensive cross-platform coverage highlighting the 40th anniversary of Title IX in 2012.

Shooting Locations: The Rutgers Athletic Center, The Palestra, University of Texas, Immaculata College and various scenes in Philadelphia and New Brunswick, NJ.

KEY CREW

Geoff Sadow - Executive Producer & Director

Geoff Sadow is an award winning multimedia journalist, producer and news executive. Currently Managing Editor and Executive Producer of Events at WorkingNation and Founder/CEO of Whoo-Rah Productions. During his 20 years at ABC News, Geoff rose to the position of Managing Editor and served as a senior member of the team which launched ABC News Now, the first full time streaming network news channel. Geoff also has produced both long and short form content at The Daily, TIME, WorkingNation and the World Science Festival. Geoff has worked with Nobel Laureates, Oscar, Emmy and Tony Award winning directors, reporters and actors and is a proud graduate of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ where he also served as Sports Director of WRSU-FM.

Jon Newman - Executive Producer

Jon Newman is co-founder of The Hodges Partnership, a fully integrated strategic communications agency in Richmond, VA. Jon worked on-air and in management at a number of radio and TV news organizations in New Jersey, Tennessee and Virginia. As the media landscape has changed, Jon’s focus now also includes social and digital media. His blog, Jon’s PR 1.5, chronicles the shift from old world PR pro to the new world of social and digital. He serves as a social media consultant for a number of clients, speaks publicly on the subject and teaches class on the topic at VCU. He is a proud graduate of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ where he also served as Sports Director of WRSU-FM.

 

Connect With The Filmmakers:

Raised
$85,228
Goal
$150,000
Make a Contribution
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51 Donors have supported this film

ACCOLADES

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The Gotham Film & Media Institute - Fiscal Sponsorship Program 2021

 

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