A new book explores the question of why the sport plays such a prominent role in the Catholic university tradition.
Basketball historians know this surprising fact: basketball was invented by a Presbyterian. College instructor James Naismith invented the game as a way for his students to burn off steam indoors during the cold New England winters. It wouldn’t be long before basketball players would be tucking miraculous medals in their uniforms and crossing themselves at the free throw line.
A casual observer of today’s NCAA tournament can’t help but notice the number of Catholic colleges that make appearances in March Madness tournament each year. And so a question arises: Why is it that, of all things, basketball plays such a prominent role in the American Catholic university tradition?
That’s exactly the question John Gasaway explores in his new book, Miracles on the Hardwood: The Hope-and-a-Prayer Tradition in Catholic College Basketball. Tracing David versus Goliath victories, like unranked La Salle’s 1952 NIT title, or peculiarities like the physical structure of Notre Dame Fieldhouse (home to Irish basketball until 1968), Gasaway’s work opens up the story of Catholic basketball like never before.