OLATHE, Kan. – Executive Producer Brenda VanLengen announced that “If Not For Them” and Do Good Productions have received a generous matching donation of $55,000 for use toward the production of the upcoming women’s basketball docuseries. The gift is from former University of Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell and his wife Jenna Mitchell.
“If Not For Them” is an epic story of the forgotten women who changed the world through the love of their sport. As women battled for equal opportunities in society in the 1970s, those who had experience playing sports through the 1950s and 60s were uniquely positioned to break down barriers and provide leadership in that critical time. This is the story of those women – the forgotten women who changed the world through the love of their sport.
“The support of the women’s basketball community has been critical for us to launch this project and the incredibly generous matching donation from Matthew and Jenna Mitchell will help us honor those that have paved the way and mentored so many,” VanLengen said. “Their gift has allowed us to make our final travel plans to collect all the interviews and content we are targeting for this project. We hope their gift will inspire others to help us continue and complete this important project.”
VanLengen, a veteran women’s basketball broadcaster, is leading the “If Not For Them” documentary project with advisement from a diverse team of women’s basketball enthusiasts. VanLengen has announced over 1,200 women’s basketball games on ESPN, Fox Sports and other networks throughout her 27-year broadcasting career.
“This is such an important story that must be told,” Matthew said. “Jenna and I are supporting this and we encourage others to give to this incredibly important project. Women’s basketball brought us in contact with some of the most amazing people on the planet. We’ve been inspired by administrators, coaches, players, and fans of our great game. We are indebted to this great game and we are excited to support the storytelling that will bring it to life in an impactful way.”
Mitchell comes from an impressive coaching tree that includes time as a graduate assistant at Tennessee under Pat Summitt. He also served as an assistant at Florida and Kentucky before taking a head coaching position at Morehead State and returning to the Wildcats. At Kentucky, Mitchell’s teams made the NCAA Tournament nine times and reached the Elite Eight twice. Mitchell was a two-time SEC Coach of the Year. He credits other legends of the game like Lin Dunn, Mickie DeMoss, Carolyn Peck, Billie Moore, Betty Jaynes, Theresa Grentz, Marsha Sharp, Jody Conradt, Vivian Stringer, Andy Landers, Van Chancellor and Doug Bruno as mentors.
The couple is still active in the Lexington community supporting the University of Kentucky Athletics Department and launching The Mitchell Family Foundation which benefits local charities. Matthew and Jenna were presented with the 2016 Community Service Award from the National Urban League of Lexington.
Through grassroots fundraising, “If Not For Them” has now secured more than $240,000 to help cover travel and production costs. Real Media, a company based in Overland Park, Kan., is filming and producing the project.
“If Not For Them” is a non-profit endeavor through the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation and Do Good Productions so all donations to the production are tax deductible. For more information, please visit: ifnotforthem.com/join-the-team/
ABOUT IF NOT FOR THEM
“If Not For Them” seeks to explore the history of women’s basketball through the eyes of the players, coaches and administrators of the AAU, CIAW, AIAW, NCAA and other organizations. Brenda VanLengen, who is a former NCAA Division I basketball coach turned Emmy Award-winning broadcaster, and the documentary team have already completed several vital trips gathering stories from across the country. The final product will be a multi-episode docuseries tracing the sport from the early days in Iowa high schools to the passage of Title IX and beyond.