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An unprecedented look inside the women's basketball team at the University of Oregon. Full Court Press celebrates the excitement, the tension, and the drama of women's basketball and explores the meaning of being a female athlete in America today. 288 pp. National publicity. Print ads. 25,000 print.
In her eighth book, Kessler (Stubborn Twig: Three Generations in the Life of a Japanese-American Family, 1993, etc.) writes, "The inherent drama of athletic competition is that somebody always wins and somebody always loses." The drama that serves as the focal point of her book, however, appears to have less to do with players' wins and losses on the hardwood court than with a coach's battles before the civil court. An up-and-coming coach on the assistant level, Jody Runge leapt at the chance to take over in 1993 as head coach for the University of Oregon Ducks. When she arrived, she was welcomed by a team that had enjoyed little success but appeared ready and willing to improve. The problem was that the university athletic department accorded to women's basketball (a non-revenue producing sport), and to women's sports in general, facilities and funding that were a significant step down from those of such prominent and profitable sports as football and men's basketball, especially where coaching-staff compensation was concerned. Runge knew that these and other inequities were violations of Title IX. So she hired a prominent sports lawyer in hopes of strong-arming the school into giving her and the team equal standing—a status well earned as Runge led the Ducks to back-to-back NCAA Tournament berths. Nominally a story about women's basketball, one of the fastest-growing sports in America, this book generally centers on the efforts to correct common misperceptions about women and athletics.
While many big-time college sports powers' athletic directors are slow in accepting it, both Kessler and Runge make a strong case that athletes are athletes, regardless of gender.