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Stringer, C. Vivian 1948–

C. Vivian Stringer 1948–

Basketball coach

C. Vivian Stringer made sports history in 1995 when she signed a multiyear contract to coach women's basketball at Rutgers University. The contract made her the best-paid women's coach in the country, with a base salary of $150,000 and numerous additional incentives that raised her yearly income to $300,000. Since then, she has became a three-time National Coach of the Year and the only women's coach in the country to guide three different schools to National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Final Four appearances. In 2008 Stringer was ranked third on the Division I women's victories list and second in all-time victories by active coaches. More significant is Stringer's influence on the lives of her student-athletes. As columnist Bill Lyon of the Philadelphia Inquirer observed, “Vivian Stringer possesses an extraordinary basketball mind. Beyond that, she embodies all that we say we want in our coaches and educators. Those who are exposed to her influence invariably grow. They are taught—and encouraged—to think.”

Stringer's success is particularly admirable because she has faced personal hurdles. After the sudden death of her husband, she faced the daunting task of being a single mother with three teenagers, one of whom is severely disabled. According to Newsday's Michael Dobie, Stringer's “entire life has been a study in the will to persevere and excel.”

Stringer was born in 1948 in Edenborn, Pennsylvania, a small coal-mining town in the western part of the state. Her town was so small that her high school did not have a women's basketball or track team, so she became the first black cheerleader instead. She became an athlete at Slippery Rock University, where she played basketball, field hockey, softball, and tennis—all of them well enough to earn entry into the school's Athletic Hall of Fame. It was also at Slippery Rock that she met her husband, a gymnast named Bill Stringer.

Volunteered to Coach

In 1971 Bill accepted a teaching position at Cheyney State University, one of the nation's first black colleges. With her own college degree in hand, Vivian volunteered to coach the women's basketball team. She was twenty-three at the time—just barely older than the students she was working with. Her coaching career began in the tight confines of the Cheyney gym, where she shared floor time with men's coach John Chaney. A fast friendship formed between Stringer and Chaney, and it has continued while each has pursued basketball fame: Stringer at Iowa and Rutgers, and Chaney at Temple University. When asked his opinion of his former colleague, Chaney told Lyon, “There isn't a more creative basketball brain in this country than Viv. Forget men, forget women, forget black, forget white.”

During her twelve years at Cheyney State, Stringer put the women's basketball program there on the map. Even though Chaney himself won a national championship while coaching there, he told Dobie that it was Stringer's squad that was the “marquee team.” Chaney said, “They played first, and the gym was filled up with people because her team always attracted the fans. When my team got on the floor, they all left.” Stringer's record at Cheyney State, 251-51, includes the ground-breaking accomplishment of a finals appearance in the first-ever NCAA tournament for women in 1982.

As Stringer was preparing her team for the NCAA showdown, Janine, her fourteen-month-old daughter, was diagnosed with a severe case of meningitis. Stringer found herself flying back and forth between the NCAA tournament and Philadelphia, where her daughter lay fighting for her life. “The thing with me and Final Fours, I really haven't experienced them,” Stringer admitted in Dobie. “I've done it, going through the movements. But in terms of experiencing all the surroundings, the Final Four was like a vacuum.” Cheyney State lost in the finals, but Stringer's achievements had caught the eye of the athletic staff at the University of Iowa. She was offered the head coaching job there in 1983, and she and her husband embarked for the Midwest with their three young children.

Suffered the Loss of Her Husband

When Stringer took over the Iowa program, the team was fighting to remain in the lower ranks of the Big Ten. She soon changed that. In her first season, the team posted a 17-10 record, and over the next eleven years the Hawkeyes compiled ten straight twenty-win seasons, appeared in the NCAA tournament nine times, and won six conference championships. Two of Stringer's three National Coach of the Year awards were won while at Iowa, and she was named NCAA District V Coach of the Year in 1985, 1988, and 1993.

Stringer's phenomenal success was marred by tragedy on Thanksgiving Day, 1992, when her husband collapsed and died from a massive heart attack. For many years, Bill had been his wife's biggest supporter, taking pride in her accomplishments and helping her to achieve them by sharing child care and other household responsibilities. Suddenly, he was no longer there, and Stringer began to question the importance of her career. “I very seriously thought of not working again,” she recalled to the New York Daily News. “Athletics seems like such a contradiction between life and what happened to my husband. It all seemed like such play. But my sons helped me through that. Basketball kept some semblance of sanity. I wrapped myself up in it.”

At a Glance …

Born in 1948 in Edenborn, PA; married Bill Stringer, c. 1970; children: David, Janine, Justin. Education: Slippery Rock University, BS in health and physical education, 1970; MEd, health and physical education, 1973.

Career: Cheyney State University, women's basketball coach, 1971-83; University of Iowa, women's basketball coach, 1983-95; Rutgers University, women's basketball coach, 1995—.

Memberships: Women's Basketball Coaches Association; Women's Sports Foundation; U.S. Amateur Basketball Association.

Awards: Named Naismith National College Coach of the Year, 1982, 1988, 1993; named NCAA District V Coach of the Year, 1985, 1988, 1993; named Big Ten Coach of the Year, 1991, 1993; recipient of Carol Eckman Award and special citation from Smithsonian Institution, 1993; Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association, Coach of the Year, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2005, 2006; inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, 2001.

Addresses: Office—Louis Brown Athletic Center, 83 Rockafeller Rd., Piscataway, NJ 08854.

Rearranging her schedule to accommodate her additional responsibilities as a single parent, Stringer returned to coaching in January of 1993. Within months, the Hawkeyes were prominently featured in the NCAA Final Four. With that Final Four appearance, Stringer became the first women's basketball coach to advance to the Final Four with teams from two different colleges. Although the Hawkeyes were eliminated at that point, Stringer won the National Coach of the Year title, as well as the Carol Eckman Award and a special citation from the Smithsonian Institution. Amazingly, she also found time to recruit what many observers felt was the best freshman class of basketball players in the school's history.

Asked to Coach Rutgers' Scarlet Knights

Stringer's win-loss record just before her move to Rutgers was a spectacular 520-135, with eleven NCAA tournament trips. This achievement—and her demonstrated ability to perform under intense personal pressure—made her an attractive commodity to the Rutgers University athletic department. Rutgers was about to move into the Big East Conference in women's basketball, and the school's long-time coach had accepted a job elsewhere. The university offered Stringer the job, complete with a record-breaking salary and incentives that were reported to have included home health care for her daughter.

The offer was attractive, but Stringer agonized over the decision. She missed her husband's input and—coming off an 11-17 season at Iowa—felt she was still needed there. “I prayed a lot,” she told the New York Daily News. “I lost weight. I got sick. I was looking for answers that no one could give me…. Once I made the decision, there was a sense of relief.” Many personal and professional goals were weighed before she made a decision. Stringer's extended family lived near Rutgers University, and the campus is close to both New York City and the popular Jersey shore. Furthermore, as Stringer told Dobie, “I felt that I needed to expose [my sons] to what I said was the real world, and the real world isn't so nice. That's not to say New Jersey is not so nice. New Jersey is not Iowa City. This might seem strange: I wasn't looking for all positive experiences. When I send them from the nest, they're going to be ready for the world.”

Some cynics claimed that Stringer's hiring had more to do with public relations than with her skills as a coach. In November of 1994 Rutgers president Francis L. Lawrence sparked a huge controversy over a statement he made about African Americans lacking “the genetic hereditary background” to score well on standardized tests. Minority students protested on campus—even staging a sit-in during a basketball game—demanding Lawrence's resignation. Lawrence apologized, explained himself, and refused to step down, creating a residue of ill-will among some of the Rutgers students. It was thought that Stringer's arrival on campus would help provide damage control for the beleaguered president.

The perception of Stringer as a token hire to appease angry African Americans was immediately challenged by Stringer herself and by many of the people who had worked with her or played under her in the past. Lyon stated that “Vivian Stringer can coach, and she can recruit. Rutgers is joining the prestigious Big East…. Women's basketball seems ready to ignite. Rutgers wants to warm itself in the flame that is to come. And in Vivian Stringer, it has a fire-starter.” For her part, Stringer commented to Lyon, “I'm not trying to be the big man or big woman on anybody's campus. But, yes, athletics can be a force for good. They can have healing power.”

Helped Scarlet Knights Advance to Playoffs

Stringer's influence was evident when the Scarlet Knights reached the finals of the 1998 Big East tournament with a record of 20-9. Stringer's freshman-led team lost to Tennessee in the third round of the championship series, but the season cemented Stringer as one of the top coaches in the NCAA. In November of 1998 Stringer's son David Stringer, a football player at North Carolina State University, was involved in an altercation that led to the shooting and death of another student. David was eventually given probation and community service for his role in the events, which included charges for misdemeanor breaking and entering. Despite enduring a family crisis, Stringer's coaching never suffered, and she was awarded the 1998 Coach of the Year Award from the Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association, an honor she received again in 1999, 2000, 2005, and 2006.

The Scarlet Knights again advanced to the finals in 1999 with a 29-6 record and upset favorite Texas Tech in the regional semifinals before being eliminated. The team seemed to advance further every year, finishing the 2000 season with a record of 26-8 and making their first appearance in the Final Four Championships. Even as Stringer's professional career was strong, her family life was again fraught with difficulties as her youngest son, Justin Stringer, suffered a serious brain injury in a car accident. Justin made a partial recovery after being unconscious for two days, but suffered minor impairment of his mental faculties. Stringer said in an interview with Ron Dicker of the New York Times, “All of us have crosses to bear. Mine just happen to be public.”

The following season, with many of her star players gone, Stringer's Scarlet Knights struggled but still managed to post a 21-8 record. That same year, Stringer was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame for her accomplishments, which included having the third-best record in women's basketball coaching history, with 644 wins. Stringer's team rebounded in 2004 with an overall record of 28-7 and their first Big East regular season championship. Although the team was eliminated in the finals, Rutgers University offered Stringer a three-year contract extension with annual compensation of more than $455,000.

Stringer's 2006 team won the Big East Tournament Championship and advanced to the Final Four, where they lost to the Tennessee Lady Vols. Even though Stringer was disappointed by the defeat, the 2006 season was the finest in the history of the franchise, and the Scarlet Knights were well positioned to enter the 2007 season as favorites for a championship appearance.

Weathered the Don Imus Controversy

In April of 2007 Stringer and her team were horrified to hear that radio talk show host Don Imus had called the members of the Scarlet Knights “nappy-headed hos” on his radio program, Imus in the Morning. Stringer petitioned CBS, which owned the show, for Imus's dismissal and gave a number of press appearances criticizing the radio host for his remarks. Despite a public apology from Imus, CBS Networks decided to fire Imus from his talk show after a number of sponsors withdrew their support from the show.

In May of 2007 it was announced that Stringer had been offered an extended contract with Rutgers University that included an increase in base pay to over $400,000 with the potential to earn an additional $500,000 in compensation for extraseason activities. In addition, Stringer signed a contract to write her autobiography for Crown Books.

Besides her collegiate coaching, Stringer has served as an international coach for various American women's basketball teams. She led the World University Games team in 1985 and the U.S. entry in the World Championship Zone Qualification tournament in 1989, and her 1991 U.S. team won a bronze medal at the Pan American Games in Havana, Cuba. She helped establish the Women's Basketball Coaches Association, and she sat on the board of the U.S. Amateur Basketball Association.

In interviews, Stringer affirmed that her coaching record and continuing success are secondary to her primary focus as a coach. “I enjoy having some impact on young women's lives—to see them smile and to use athletics as a vehicle for their successes in life,” she stated in Rutgers University's media guide. “My focus is not just on the basketball player and their performance on the court, but the kind of young woman they are going to be off the court.”

Sources

Books

Great Women in Sports, Visible Ink Press, 1996.

Periodicals

Knight Ridder, July 14, 1995; July 16, 1995.

Newsday, December 3, 1995.

New York Daily News, August 13, 1995.

New York Times, July 15, 1995; November 25, 1998; January 12, 1999; November 17, 2000; November 10, 2002; September 16, 2004; March 26, 2005; April 2, 2007; April 26, 2007.

Philadelphia Inquirer, July 23, 1995.

USA Today, September 15, 2004.

Online

“C. Vivian Stringer,” Scarletknights.com,http://www.scarletknights.com/basketball-women/coaches/stringer.html (accessed January 28, 2008).

—Anne Janette Johnson and Micah L. Issitt

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"Stringer, C. Vivian 1948–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Stringer, C. Vivian 1948–

C. Vivian Stringer 1948

A Sporting Pioneer

Brought Success to Iowa

Earned Record Salary

Dedicated to Molding Character

Sources

College basketball coach

C. Vivian Stringer made sports history in 1995, when she signed a multi-year contract to coach womens basketball at Rutgers University. The deal she inked with Rutgers made her the best-paid womens coach in the country, with a base salary of $150,000 and numerous additional incentives that could raise her yearly take to close to $300,000. A three-time National Coach of the Year and the only womens coach in the country to guide two different schools to National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Final Four appearances, Stringer collects a paycheck that is the envy of many of her peers, both male and female.

Money is secondary to winning, however, and winning is secondary to enriching the lives of her student-athletes. As columnist Bill Lyon of the Philadelphia Inquirer observed: Vivian Stringer possesses an extraordinary basketball mind. Beyond that, she embodies all that we say we want in our coaches and educators. Those who are exposed to her influence invariably grow. They are taughtand encouragedto think.

Stringers success is particularly admirable because she has faced professional and personal hurdles. In a quarter century of coaching she has taken 11 teams to the NCAA tournament, most of these appearances coming with the University of Iowa in the competitive Big Ten Conference. At home she faces the daunting tasks of being a single mother with three teenagers, one of whom is severely disabled. According to Michael Dobie in Newsday, Stringers entire life has been a study in the will to persevere and excel.

Despite the dual tragedies of her daughters lengthy illness and her husbands sudden death in 1992, Stringer has compiled one of the best won-loss records of any womens basketball coach, currently ranking fourth-highest victory-getter in the womens coaching profession. Im a winner. Im going to be a winner, and Rutgers University is going to be the jewel of the East, she predicted in 1995. All Ive ever wanted to do is coach basketball and love doing it; I just want to be a good person and do a great job.

A Sporting Pioneer

Stringers success is particularly admirable because she Stringers early years infused her with the iron will that

At a Glance

Born in 1948 in Edenborn, PA; married Bill Stringer (a professor), c. 1970; children: David, Janine, Justin. Education: Slippery Rock University, B.A.,c 1970.

Cheyney State University, Philadelphia, PA, womens basketball coach, 1971-82; University of Iowa, Iowa City, womens basketball coach, 1983-95; Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, womens basketball coach, 1995.

Member: Womens Basketball Coaches Association, Womens Sports Foundation, U.S. Amateur Basketball Association.

Selected awards: Named Naismith National College Coach of the Year, 1982, 1988, 1993; named NCAA District V Coach of the Year, 1985,1988,1993; named Big Ten Coach of the Year, 1991, 1993; recipient of Carol Eckman Award and special citation from Smithsonian Institution, 1993.

Addresses: Office Athletic Department, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ.

has served her so well in adulthood. She was born in 1948 in Edenborn, Pennsylvania, a small coal-mining town in the western part of the state. Her small home town high school did not even have a womens basketball or track team, so she became the first black cheerleader instead. She hit her stride as a collegian at Slippery Rock University, where she played basketball, field hockey, softball, and tennisall of them well enough to earn entry into the schools Athletic Hall of Fame. It was also at Slippery Rock that she met her husband, a gymnast named Bill Stringer.

In 1971 Bill Stringer accepted a teaching position at Cheyney State University, one of the nations first black colleges. With her own college degree in hand, Vivian volunteered to coach the womens basketball team. She was 23 at the timejust barely older than the students she was working with. Her coaching career began in the tight confines of the Cheyney gym, where she shared floor time with mens coach John Chaney. A fast friendship formed between Stringer and Chaney, and it has continued while each has pursued basketball fame Stringer at Iowa, Chaney at Temple University. Asked his opinion of his former colleague, Chaney told the Philadelphia Inquirer: There isnt a more creative basketball brain in this country than Viv. Forget men, forget women, forget black, forget white.

Stringer spent ten years at Cheyney State, and she put the womens basketball program there on the map. Although Chaney himself won a national championship while there, he recalled in Newsday that it was Stringers squad that was the marquee team. Chaney said: They played first, and the gym was filled up with people because her team always attracted the fans. When my team got on the floor, they all left. Stringers record at Cheyney State, 251-51, includes the ground-breaking accomplishment of a finals appearance in the first-ever NCAA tournament for women. The year was 1982, and the season was marred by personal tragedy.

Even as Stringer was preparing her team for the NCAA showdown, her only daughter, Janine, contracted a severe case of meningitis. The child was 14 months old at the time. Stringer found herself flying back and forth between the NCAA tournament and Philadelphia, where her daughter lay fighting for life. The thing with me and Final Fours, I really havent experienced them, Stringer admitted in Newsday. Ive done it, going through the movements. But in terms of experiencing all the surroundings, the Final Four was like a vacuum. Cheyney State lost in the finals, but Stringers achievements had caught the eye of the athletic staff at the University of Iowa. She was offered the head coaching job there in 1983, and she and her husband embarked for the Midwest with their three young children.

Brought Success to Iowa

When Stringer took over the Iowa program, the team was struggling along in the lower ranks of the Big Ten. She soon changed that. In her first season, the team posted a 17-10 record, and over the next 11 years the Hawkeyes compiled ten straight 20-win seasons, appeared in the NCAA tournament nine times, and won six conference championships. Two of Stringers three National Coach of the Year awards were won while at Iowa, and she was named NCAA District V Coach of the Year in 1985, 1988, and 1993.

The Hawkeyes only Final Four appearance under Stringer brought another poignant moment to the coachs phenomenal career. On Thanksgiving Day of 1992, Stringers husband Bill collapsed and died of a massive heart attack. For many years Bill Stringer had been his wifes biggest supporter, taking pride in her accomplishments and helping her to achieve them by providing the child care and other housekeeping duties. Suddenly he was no longer there, and Stringer began to question the importance of her career. I very seriously thought of not working again, she recalled in the New York Daily News. Athletics seems like such a contradiction between life and what happened to my husband. It all seemed like such play. But my sons helped me through that. Basketball kept some semblance of sanity. I wrapped myself up in it.

Rearranging her schedule to accommodate her extra duties at home, Stringer returned to coaching in January of 1993. Within months, her Hawkeyes were prominently featured in the NCAA Final Four. With that Final Four appearance, Stringer became the first womens basketball coach to advance to the Final Four with teams from two different colleges. Although the Hawkeyes were eliminated at that point, Stringer won the National Coach of the Year title, as well as the Carol Eckman Award and a special citation from the Smithsonian Institution. Amazingly, she also somehow found time to recruit what many observers felt was the best freshman class of basketball players in the schools history.

Earned Record Salary

Stringers win-loss record just prior to her move to Rutgers was a spectacular 520-135, with 11 NCAA tournament trips. This achievementand her demonstrated ability to perform under intense personal pressuremade her an attractive commodity to the Rutgers University athletic department. Rutgers, which is the state university of New Jersey, was about to move into the Big East Conference in womens basketball, and the schools long-time coach had accepted a job elsewhere. The university offered Stringer the job, complete with a record-breaking salary and incentives that are reported to have included home health care for her disabled daughter.

The offer was attractive, but Stringer agonized over the decision. She missed her husbands input, andcoming off an 11-17 season at Iowafelt she was still needed there. I prayed a lot, she told the New York Daily News. I lost weight. I got sick. I was looking for answers that no one could give me Once I made the decision, there was a sense of relief. Many personal and professional goals were weighed in arriving at the final choice. Stringers extended family lives in the area, and the campus is close to both New York City and the popular Jersey Shore. Furthermore, as Stringer told Newsday, I felt that I needed to expose [my sons] to what I said was the real world, and the real world isnt so nice. Thats not to say New Jersey is not so nice. New Jersey is not Iowa City. This might seem strange: I wasnt looking for all positive experiences. When I send them from the nest, theyre going to be ready for the world.

Some cynics claimed that Stringers hiring had more to do with public relations than with her skills as a coach. In November of 1994, Rutgers president Francis L. Lawrence sparked a huge controversy over a statement he made about African Americans lacking the genetic hereditary background to score well on standardized tests. Minority students protested on campuseven staging a sit-in during a basketball gamedemanding Lawrences resignation. Lawrence apologized, explained himself, and refused to step down, creating a residue of ill-will among some of the students at Rutgers. It was thought that Stringers arrival on campus would prove the perfect damage control for the beleaguered president.

The perception of Stringer as a token hire to appease angry blacks was immediately challenged by the coach herself and many of the people who had worked with her or played under her in the past. As Bill Lyon put it, Vivian Stringer can coach, and she can recruit. Rutgers is joining the prestigious Big East Womens basketball seems ready to ignite. Rutgers wants to warm itself in the flame that is to come. And in Vivian Stringer, it has a fire-starter. For her part, Stringer commented in the Philadelphia Inquirer: Im not trying to be the big man or big woman on anybodys campus. But, yes, athletics can be a force for good. They can have healing power.

Dedicated to Molding Character

In addition to her collegiate coaching, Stringer has served as an international coach for various American womens basketball teams. Her 1991 U.S. team won a bronze medal at the Pan American Games in Havana, Cuba, and she also led the World University Games team in 1985 and the U.S. entry in the World Championship Zone Qualification tournament in 1989. She has helped to establish the Womens Basketball Coaches Association, and she currently sits on the board of the U.S. Amateur Basketball Association. On the personal front, she continues to raise her three children, including her wheelchair-bound daughter in as many of the family activities as possible. She has hinted that, in New Jersey, she has found the place where she would like to retire and live. She told the New York Daily News: I can totally relax and unpack. Theres no uneasiness about where I am going to be.

Her many administrative dutiesand even the seasonal won-loss recordsare secondary considerations for Stringer. I enjoy having some impact on young womens livesto see them smile and to use athletics as a vehicle for their successes in life, she stated in Rutgers Universitys media guide. My focus is not just on the basketball player and their performance on the court, but the kind of young woman they are going to be off the court. As for working at Rutgers, Stringer relishes the opportunity to build a whole new program and put it to the test in a demanding conference. She concluded: I feel good that I can sit down in a young womans home and offer them, in effect, an Ivy League education and access to all things and the potential for greatness.

Sources

Books

Great Women in Sports, Visible Ink Press, 1996, pp. 455-457.

Periodicals

Newsday, December 3, 1995, p. 28.

New York Daily News, August 13, 1995, p. 38-39.

Philadelphia Inquirer, July 23, 1995, p. C1.

Other

Knight Ridder wire story, July 14,1995; July 16,1995.

Anne Janette Johnson

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

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"Stringer, C. Vivian 1948–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 16 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Stringer, C. Vivian 1948–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/stringer-c-vivian-1948

"Stringer, C. Vivian 1948–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved August 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/stringer-c-vivian-1948