University of Tennessee Athletic Director Emeritus and women’s sports trailblazer Joan Cronan earned the Southeastern Conference’s Michael L. Slive Distinguished Service Award.
Cronan, a United States Sports Academy Trustee and Honorary Doctorate recipient, was presented the award during the SEC Championship Game on 3 December 2022 in Atlanta, Ga. The Michael L. Slive Distinguished Service Award is presented on special occasions to former student-athletes, coaches, graduates or administrators of SEC institutions or the conference office who have maintained a lifetime of interest in college athletics and who, over a significant period of time, have exhibited superior leadership qualities and made a significant impact to the betterment of the mission of the Southeastern Conference.
“Having had the opportunity to work with Joan through her work as a member of our Board of Trustees, I can say without hesitation that she is a well deserving candidate for the Michael L. Slive Distinguished Service Award,” Academy President and CEO Dr. T.J. Rosandich said. “I am very pleased on behalf of the Academy faculty, staff, alumni, and students to extend our most sincere congratulations to Joan.”
“Joan Cronan’s leadership and vision for women’s athletics helped build Tennessee into a national brand all while amassing conference and national championships, expanding the budget at UT for the betterment of women’s athletics, increasing the annual giving for women’s athletics, and increasing women’s sports sponsorship,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said. “Joan has left an indelible mark on the SEC through her support of female student-athletes and her work to further the spirit of Title IX. We are pleased to honor Joan Cronan with the Michael L. Slive Distinguished Service Award.”
Cronan served as the women’s athletics director at Tennessee for 29 years until 2012. During her tenure, Tennessee expanded women’s varsity sports from seven to 11, the Lady Vols earned 10 NCAA titles and 24 Southeastern Conference (SEC) Tournament Championships and annual giving to support women’s athletics increased to $2 million per year. She prioritized academics with student-athletes, leading an initiative that stressed class attendance and engagement. As a result, female student-athletes earned an average 93 percent Graduation Success Rate during her tenure. Cronan also started a community service component that emphasized civic responsibility as part of an athletics experience at the university.
A native of Louisiana, Cronan has served on the Academy’s Board of Trustees since 2014. She received the Academy’s 2011 Carl Maddox Sports Management Award, which is given annually to an individual for contributions to the growth and development of sport enterprise through effective management practices. Cronan also served as National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) President in 2008-09.
Among her many accomplishments and awards, Cronan was the first female to receive NACDA’s Corbett Award since 2010 (Barbara Hedges, University of Washington) and the only recipient to graduate from LSU, the institution where the Corbett name became synonymous with the highest levels of success in athletics administration. The award is presented annually by NACDA to the collegiate administrator who “through the years has most typified Corbett’s devotion to intercollegiate athletics and worked unceasingly for its betterment.” Additionally, Cronan received an honorary degree from the Sports Management Institute (SMI), an educational institute sponsored by NACDA and the universities of Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Southern California and Texas, and automatic induction into the NACDA Hall of Fame.
In 2017, Cronan was honored by the NCAA with the inaugural Pat Summitt Award, which recognizes an individual in the Association’s membership for positively influencing college athletes and their experiences through the individual’s career long commitment to advocating for college sports. Award recipients are selected annually by the NCAA President and receive a $10,000 honorarium to donate to the organization of the honoree’s choice that combats or researches neurological diseases of the brain. Cronan donated the funds to the Pat Summitt Foundation.
In 1998, Cronan’s work earned her accord from the Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame, as she was named its Administrator of the Year. In March 1987, the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) presented her with its leadership award. She also won NACWAA’s 1995 regional award.
Throughout her career, Cronan served on the NCAA’s Executive Committee, Management Council, as well as the NCAA’s Council, and was a member of the NCAA Championship Cabinet. She was also a member of the SEC Executive Committee.