On its way to the 2001 NCAA women’s basketball championship, Notre Dame came from behind to beat the University of Connecticut in the semifinal game and then squeaked by Purdue University in the heart-stopping final. In the life-is-full-of-strange-twists category, Notre Dame graduate John Walters ‘88 then published a book on UConn’s team, while Purdue graduate Mark Bradford published a book on Notre Dame’s team.
For Purdue graduate Bradford, a freelance sportswriter for the Associated Press, the South Bend Tribune and other publications, the idea of a book came during the final game as he watched ND’s Ruth Riley ‘01 hit two free throws in the closing seconds to untie the game and then saw Purdue miss a winning 3-point basket. That ending reminded Bradford of a scene from Riley’s favorite movie, Hoosiers. Right then, Bradford says, he decided to find out if anyone was planning to write a book. “If they don’t — I will,” he vowed. Soon enough, he had a book deal. His Nice Girls Finish First: The Remarkable Story of Notre Dame’s Rise to the Top of Women’s College Basketball was published in December by Diamond Communications.
For ND grad Walters, publishers’ interest dried up with defending champion UConn’s semifinal loss at the tournament. But not his. “I felt strongly that within the confines of Connecticut,” he says, “where the Huskies draw more than 16,000 fans per [home] game every night, this book would sell.”
So he decided to publish and distribute the book himself — a book, incidentally, that was printed by Ave Maria Press on the Notre Dame campus. The Same River Twice: A Season with Geno Auriemma and the Connecticut Huskies sold out its first press run, primarily to buyers in Connecticut, and is now in its second printing.
Walters, a former writer for Sports Illustrated, is thrilled about the success of the book. He wasn’t so thrilled about taking sides in the UConn-ND semifinal game. “I had really mixed emotions,” he says. Bradford says he had no problems with the Purdue-ND final. He was for ND all the way, although his wife, Wendy, also a Purdue graduate, was cheering for their alma mater.
In the book wars, Walters’ UConn work holds about a 2,000-copy sales edge over Bradford’s ND tome. “People in Connecticut are nuts about this team,” says Walters. Bradford hopes his book will close the sales gap during football season, when fans learn it’s out there. For fans who can’t make it to either the Notre Dame or Connecticut bookstore, both books are available at online.
Carol Schaal is the managing editor of this magazine.