Notre Dame women's basketball makes endowment history

John Fineran
Tribune Correspondent

SOUTH BEND – What does it say that the first endowed coaching position at Notre Dame, a school synonymous with college football, is for another sport?

A whole lot when you consider the honor belongs to Notre Dame women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw.

“I am overwhelmed and humbled by the incredible generosity,” McGraw said after Notre Dame announced Monday that former point guard Karen Robinson (1987-91) and her husband Kevin Keyes, a former Notre Dame tennis player, made a $5 million gift to endow the salary of the position McGraw has held for 28 seasons.

“Karen holds a special place for me as one of my first point guards here,” McGraw continued. “She, Kevin and their family remain a treasured part of the Notre Dame women’s basketball program. It means so much to me to have our alumnae remain close to the program year after year as we continue to build on the foundation that they created, both on the court and in the community.”

Karen Keyes, who left Notre Dame as the program’s all-time leading scorer (she is currently ninth), earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Notre Dame in American Studies and business. She currently is the head girls coach at Ridgewood (N.J.) High School, serves on the board at the Reed Academy School for Autism and is a member of the Health Network at The Valley Hospital.

Kevin Keyes, who has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business from Notre Dame, is an officer at Annaly Capital Management, a real estate investment trust. They are both members of Notre Dame’s Student-Athlete Advisory Council, have long been benefactors of Notre Dame and are the parents of three children – Katie, Cassie and John.

“Muffet is one of the most important influences in our lives,” Karen Keyes said. “We are proud to honor her, recognize her dedication to the university and continue to admire all of the successful women she has coached and developed over her entire career.”

The endowment is believed to be the largest in women’s college basketball and launches a new initiative by Notre Dame to endow coaching positions and student-athlete scholarships.

“The fact that Notre Dame’s first head coach endowment comes from one of coach McGraw’s former players and her family speaks volumes about the impact Muffet has had on the young women who have been a part of the Notre Dame women’s basketball program,” said Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick. “We are extraordinarily grateful to Karen and Kevin for enabling us to make sure that Muffet can continue to educate many more young women in years to come.”

Muffet McGraw's third-ranked Irish open the season Friday night. (SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)