Joan Cronan didn't even have to move her office.
After 28 years as Tennessee's women's athletic director, Cronan was named the interim athletic director on June 9, a job overseeing both UT's men's and women's athletic departments.
But who is she?
From the relationship between the men's and women's athletic department over the years to Pat Summitt's infamous stare, Cronan discussed these and other topics including her jobs at Tennessee, as well as her life away from UT, in an exclusive interview with The Daily Beacon.
Becoming “a bridge”
Despite having what she said was a “pretty good job,” Cronan considers taking the role of interim athletic director as “a no-brainer.”
“No place in America has done more for women's athletics than the University of Tennessee, and so I've been really proud to be apart of that,” she said. “When an opportunity came to be a bridge-when they asked me to do it-I accepted with the idea that it was an interim (position only) and with the idea that maybe I could make a difference.”
The combining of the men's and women's athletic departments has been in the works “about the last three years,” according to Cronan.
“I think it's just a continuation of some good things that have happened and I think we'll continue to work together,” she said. “As we look at the whole picture, my goal in the blending from a women's standpoint is the Lady Vols never lose their identity, or never lose their voices, and that was one of the goals I wanted to have happen and it has happened.”
Another goal she has is having high expectations for every sports program at UT.
“My goal has always been that all of our sports, men and women, be in the top 10 in the country, and I think that's a realistic goal,” she said. “And if we're not there, we should be moving there.”
UT football coach Derek Dooley, an athletic director himself for two years at Louisiana Tech, spoke highly of Cronan when asked at the SEC Media Days in July.
“Joan has been phenomenal,” Dooley said. “When Joan took over as interim athletics director, I thought it was very important to try to define for her three or four things where she could help us before we hired a new athletics director. She has responded beautifully. She has done a phenomenal job of kind of running the ship in the interim phase.”
Mention the Lady Vols and one name immediately comes to mind: Pat Summitt.
Having Summitt as the women's basketball coach for 37 seasons, as well as stability among other women's coaches, has been invaluable to Cronan.
“I can't tell you how much having a Pat Summitt as your women's basketball coach for 37 years now,” she said. “I'm staring my 30th year and she's finishing her 37th and to have the-I don't think she's an icon for women's basketball, but an icon for women's athletics as well-that is. But if you look at the longevity of our coaches, Mike and Sonia-Hahn Patrick (in tennis), the Weekleys (Ralph and Karen in softball) have been here a long time, I guess the newest coach we have right now is Matt Kredich in swimming and he just finished his seventh year. I've got some stability there.”
But Cronan jokingly admits Summitt does have some advantages.
“In 1968, UT hired me as their basketball coach and my budget was $15,000 and they paid me $15,000. So I tell Coach Summitt all the time I think she's overpaid; I did it for $15,000,” Cronan said.
So what has it been like being Summitt's boss for all these years?
“I get asked that all the time,” she said. “If I'm getting on an airplane, and I introduce myself-especially if it's a gentleman-I say, “I'm Joan Cronan. I'm women's athletic director at Tennessee,” they usually smile and they have two questions: the first one is does she (Summitt) stare at you the way she stares at everybody else. And of course that mean's they all know about our program.
“And then the second question, which is more telling about Title IX and opportunity-especially if it's a gentleman-they look at me and say, “I have a daughter,” or “I have a granddaughter who…” and they go on and explain their athletic ability, and Title IX is working and moms and dads, and grandmas and granddads want the same thing for their daughters and their sons.”
Beyond the job, giving back
But her life isn't centered solely on UT athletics.
“My priorities in life are: God, family, Tennessee and then golf and tennis and some of the other things,” she said. “I love to play golf. I am a “movie-holic.” I enjoy the escape of a good movie. And I'm fortunate to have five of the cutest grandchildren in the world so they keep me busy.”
Her lowest round of golf?
“Oh gosh, I don't tell that. That's a secret,” she said. “I shot 75 the other day, but then it rained so I didn't have to play the last three holes.”
Cronan is also involved in numerous charity organizations, and says her faith plays a large role in that.
“My favorite Bible verse is Luke 12:48, and it says: “To whom much is given, much is expected,” Cronan said. “The University of Tennessee and Joan Cronan have been very blessed and I think it's part of our expectation that we give back. You know, I had the opportunity to chair the United Way Drive. I've have the opportunity to be a deacon in my church.
“And all that's important to me personally, cause I've often said when my tombstone's there, I want it to say I made a difference in young people's lives, and I was fair in the decisions I made. And I want to be fair in what we give back to the community.”
After UT hires a permanent athletic director, Cronan will return to her role in the women's department until July 2012, as part of the merging process. Beginning in July 2012, she will serve as an advisor to the athletic director and chancellor for two years.
“After that I'm going to ride into the sunset and always have orange blood and pull for Tennessee,” she said.
-Matt Dixon is a senior in journalism and electronic media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @MattDixon3.
Cronan's faith, family guide life, job
Joan Cronan didn't even have to move her office.