Former longtime University of Tennessee women’s athletics director Joan Cronan can add a new title to her already impressive list of career accomplishments after she received an Honorary Doctorate from the United States Sports Academy.
Each year as part of its Awards of Sport program, the Academy presents honorary doctorates to people who have made outstanding contributions to sport and to society. Cronan, an Academy Trustee, received the award from Academy President Dr. T.J. Rosandich and Board of Trustees Chairman Robert C. Campbell III at the institution’s 35th annual Awards of Sport program in Daphne, Ala.
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 careerlong 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.
The Academy’s Awards of Sport honor those who have made significant contributions to sport in categories as diverse as the artist and the athlete. The Academy’s American Sport Art Museum and Archives (ASAMA) annually recognizes these men and women through its Sport Artist of the Year, Honorary Doctorates, Medallion Series, Athletes of the Year and Alumni of the Year awards.