The Notre Dame legend, former WNBA player, and Olympic gold medalist testified before Congress on Tuesday morning to advocate against cuts to the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). In her testimony, Riley recounts her family's hardships during her childhood and how they often relied on food stamps.
For the women's basketball team, the core of this preseason storyline is the same as always: a national championship is the ultimate goal.
Two veteran players leading the way towards that goal this season are Madison Cable, a graduate student, and Hannah Huffman, a senior finance major.
Cable and Huffman are not only two of the more experienced players on this basketball team but also two of the more interesting personalities as well (just check out this picture of the two wearing t-shirts with pictures of their pets on them.)
The two leaders are also no stranger to the preparation and hard work it takes to make it to a national championship, playing in the title game each of the past two years. In their time at Notre Dame, that preparation has always included summer school to help stay on track with classes during the season and be able to train and workout alongside their teammates.
This summer, however, was different for Cable and Huffman as they chose not to attend summer school but to return to their home states for a summer internship. While the internship experience is pretty standard for Notre Dame students, it is not as common for those on the basketball team.
Maddie Cable, a Pennsylvania native, took advantage of the opportunity to return home and work in the Pittsburgh Penguins front office. "It was a cool time to be there because the team was for sale this summer," said Cable. "I saw the logistics of what went into that and the preparation it takes for somebody to buy a team."
Also, being there in the summer meant Cable was able to experience the heart of the free agency period. "I was there on a big day when we got one of the best guys on the team, Phil Kessel," said Cable. "So, everyone was really excited that day."
For Cable, someone who has been an athlete for the majority of her life, getting a glimpse of the alternate, business side of a sports team was an opportunity she couldn't pass up. "It was just cool to be around and to see the logistics of a sports organization on the other side of not being a player," said Cable.
Leaving the world of sports, Hannah Huffman put her business major to work while employed within technology consulting at Deloitte back home in her native San Francisco. "I was put on the Hewlett-Packard project over the summer," said Huffman. "[HP] is currently splitting into two Fortune 500 companies, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and HP Inc. So, deloitte was asked to go to HP and help separate the two companies and set up their IT infrastructure. The HP project was Deloitte's biggest project so I was actually really fortunate as an intern to be assigned to that project."
While at Deloitte, Hannah was also really fortunate to be able to meet the organization's CEO Cathy Engelbert, the first U.S. female CEO of a Big Four firm and a graduate of Lehigh University. Another cool fact? Engelbert played basketball under Coach McGraw while she was at Lehigh.
"We had a great conversation about Coach McGraw and her time at Lehigh and her love for sports - she's an absolute huge basketball fanatic," said Huffman. "As an intern, to be able to say I had a conversation with a CEO of the whole organization was just a huge highlight of the summer."
In addition to meeting the CEO, Huffman was also offered to return to the organization full-time once she graduates this coming May.
While going away for the summer is something that is not necessarily the norm for basketball players, that doesn't mean it's frowned upon, especially not for older players who have become accustomed to the routine of the program.
In fact, getting Coach McGraw's 'OK' to leave for the summer was not too challenging of a task.
"I think she definitely supports us in internships and she wants us to go out and get experience and make networks and connections," said Cable.
And for Huffman specifically, the opportunity to leave for an internship during the summer before her senior year was a large part of her decision to play at Notre Dame.
"When I was being recruited here that was one of the first questions I asked," said Huffman. "Especially in the business world, it's really crucial to have that work experience. [Coach McGraw] really wants us to not only be great basketball players but have a great professional life. Going away from the team for 3 months made it easier with her support behind us."
The transition back so far this fall has been, as you might expect, fairly easy for these veteran players who have been here before.
"We have such an intense schedule when we're here, which is good because it keeps us focused and everything," said Cable. "When we go home, we're on our own time. But, once we get here, it's not that hard. You just jump right back into it and it's nice to be around our teammates again."
For Huffman, a new experience in the workforce, a job offer, and a stronger appreciation for Notre Dame were all gained when she decided to step away from campus for the summer.
"[It was] the longest I've been away from Notre Dame and it kind of gave me a chance to really appreciate how much I love going here," said Huffman. "When you go and do things for the last time you appreciate them in a whole different light."
For now, it's back to the grind of balancing schoolwork and basketball and, as always, focusing on winning a national championship.
While our student-athletes have been working hard in preparation for the start of the fall season, we've also made a few improvements in anticipation of the new school year.
From this point forward, Irish UNDerground will be utilizing the Wordpress platform powered by NBC Sports.
Here's a look at our three new blog websites:
UNDerground: Notre Dame Athletics
Strong and True: Notre Dame Football
Irish United: Notre Dame Men's and Women's Soccer
Go ahead and bookmark these now. With features, videos, photos, commentaries and news from inside the athletic department, we are committed to bringing you coverage of Notre Dame athletics unlike any you can find elsewhere.
Get ready. 2012-13 is going to be an exciting year to be Irish.
Though it should probably come as no surprise, Irish women's hoops great Ruth Riley ('01) received another nice honor this week. The WNBA recognized the Chicago Sky center's commitment to the community with its WNBA Cares Community Assist Award for June.
Here's more from the press release on the WNBA website:
Since joining the Chicago Sky, Riley has assumed a leadership role off the court in the team's community outreach programs, while continuing to support health-related issues globally through her work with Nothing But Nets and Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry campaign. This marks Riley's third Community Assist Award, having previously been honored in 2006 and 2008.
Understanding the importance of being a positive role model for young girls, Riley visited two Chicago area high schools where she spent one-on-one time with students. During her visit with 9th through 11th grade girls at Chicago North High School, Riley shared personal life lessons with the group and emphasized the importance of setting goals and making positive choices. She also spoke with females students at Rowe-Clark High School and hosted a special clinic for the school's girls' basketball team.
Last month, Riley was inducted into the Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-America Hall of Fame. Fighting Irish Digital Media captured the moment, and you can watch more from that induction ceremony in the video below:
Check out this great feature on graduate student and two-sport star Brittany Mallory, courtesy of the Fighting Irish Digital Media student crew. Better known for her time on the basketball court, Mallory is also making a big impact on the field for the 13-4 Notre Dame women's lacrosse team.
After you watch the video, there's also a nice article from Philip Hersh of the Chicago Tribune as Mallory and her lacrosse teammates prepare to take on defending champion Northwestern in a first round NCAA matchup on Saturday at 4 pm ET.
Here's an excerpt from the story. Hersh writes,
The idea of trying lacrosse again developed out of a lighthearted exchange in August between Mallory and first-year Irish lacrosse coach Christine Halfpenny.
"She was joking around, saying when you get finished with basketball, come pick up a stick," Mallory said. "Then it happened, and it's pretty shocking."
Halfpenny asked her players to sign off on asking Mallory to join the team before the two met five days after the basketball title game. Six days later, Mallory made her first of five appearances in the team's last six games.
Following a particular college or university is a pastime for all sports fans as they go through their stages of adolescence. Whether it be where their parents went, where they live or just an obsession with a particular team for no apparent reason, all fans share random, common bonds with people who may be miles away.
As a child I grew up watching the 'Old Ball Coach' roam the sidelines for the Florida Gators (dad's alma mater), Tom Coverdale run the point for the Indiana Hoosiers (childhood team) and Autry Denson and Jarious Jackson run the option for the Irish (location). As I got older, the times and games I remembered turned in to moments in which to this day I have not forgotten.
Moments are what make us as sports fans keep coming back for more, albeit there were just over 28,000 paying customers in attendance at Chicago White Sox pitcher Mark Buerhle's perfect game in 2009, as time goes by there will be 100,000 people claiming they were at Comiskey Park (I have and always will call it by this name) that day. I am not a fan of this particular Chicago area sports team, yet I will always remember where I was and whom I was with when this great moment took place.
I have many great and historic moments that I remember from the past 20-some years I have been a fan of Notre Dame. I have recollections that I would rather forget (Jackson's safety against LSU in 1998 in which he hurt his ankle and was out the following week) and those in which I wish I could relive over and over (Notre Dame women's basketball team taking down #1 UConn in 2001 at the Joyce en route to the program's first NCAA title). For both of those games, I remember where I was (Jackson's injury - celebrating Thanksgiving in Indianapolis, women's basketball vs. UConn - at game behind basket in first row).
This past athletic season had a fair share of 'Notre Dame Moments' in which I was able to witness; here are my top five ...
5. Frank Dyer, The All-American Guy
NCAA Men's Swimming Championships
March 24, 2012
In the 53 years of men's swimming at Notre Dame, the Irish have accomplished a lot - five BIG EAST Championships, five BIG EAST Coach of the Year honors and over 50 all-BIG EAST honorees - yet they had never had any swimmer garner national All-American recognition, until Frank Dyer's swim in Federal Way, Wash., this past season.
Dyer had been training all year long for the opportunity to make his mark in Notre Dame swimming lore. On a Friday evening in late March, he got his opportunity. As he stepped upon the blocks in the 200 freestyle finals, Dyer had the weight of the entire program on his back and he didn't disappoint.
The gun went off and just one minute and 34 seconds later, Notre Dame had its first All-American, Frank Dyer.
4. Freeby Calls Bull's Shot
Baseball vs. Pittsburgh
March 23, 2012
It may not have been George Herman Ruth calling his shot or even Jake Taylor, but Notre Dame baseball radio announcer Chuck Freeby opined between innings on the broadcast that the Irish would defeat the Panthers in the bottom half of the ninth inning on a home run from freshman Ryan Bull.
What happened next was truly amazing as Bull hit his first career home run at the exact time in which Freeby 'called it.'
3. Squeezing The Orange
Men's Basketball vs. #1 Syracuse
January 21, 2012
On a cold January day, the Irish, with a record of 11-8, welcomed the undefeated Syracuse Orange into Purcell Pavilion for a BIG EAST conference clash.
As the game wore on, Notre Dame played more like the Harlem Globetrotters to Syracuse's Washington Generals.
Building a lead as big as 18 points, the Irish went on to win 67-58 in front of a sold-out crowd. This was the eighth time that the men's basketball program had knocked off the top-ranked team in the AP poll in its history.
2. Big Shot Britt
Women's Basketball vs. Connecticut
April 1, 2012
In the fourth meeting on the season between the two squads, the teams went back and forth throughout much of the game.
The Irish squandered a five-point lead late to find themselves down two with just under-10 seconds to play when Skylar Diggins drove the length of the court and put up a runner in the lane, the attempt would miss and fall in the hands of senior Natalie Novosel. After gathering the rebound, Novosel put the ball up on a reverse lay-up, to see the ball drop with just a few seconds left on the clock to send the game to overtime.
The Irish found themselves down, three, early in overtime. That's when senior Brittany Mallory, who was shooting 1-11 in NCAA Championship play prior, was found in the corner for an open three, which she calmly drained.
After a rebound on the defensive end, Diggins quickly pushed the ball up the court and again found Mallory on the wing for another trey. The clutch play from their scrappy, sharpshooting senior would catapult the Irish to their second NCAA Championship game in as many years.
1. The Dedication Game (Holy War on Ice)
Hockey vs. Boston College
November 18, 2011
Taking part on the Friday night before their respective football teams clashed in the 'Holy War' on the gridiron, the hockey squads took to the ice for the 'Dedication Game' of the 50-million dollar Compton Family Ice Arena.
The sold-out crowd of 5,022 was treated to one of my favorite moments of my time at Notre Dame as the longtime tenor for the Chicago Blackhawks, Jim Cornelison (an Indiana University graduate), bellowed the National Anthem and kicked off a night full of moments.
This 'Notre Dame Moment' looked like something right out of the third Mighty Ducks when Bryan Rust capped off the game with a sudden-death victory goal with just 1.1 seconds left in overtime to give the Irish the 3-2 win.
These are just a few of the great Irish athletics moments from the past year. Every particular moment has its key players - Ryan Bull, Brittany Mallory, Frank Dyer - but the big question in sports has always been, "how will history remember you?" I'm sorry to say to all the athletes out there, it's not always your full athletic body of work that gets you remembered, sometimes it's just that one 'moment' where everything seems to come together and 20 years from now everyone is still talking about it, and all of Irish nation claims to have been there in person.
As the ghost of George Herman (Babe) Ruth told Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez, "Heroes get remembered, but Legends never die."
- Aaron Horvath