Retired Tenn. women's AD emeritus Joan Cronan hopes brand endures
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Recently retired Tennessee women's athletic director emeritus Joan Cronan wants to make sure the Lady Vols brand and logo remain an integral part of the school's tradition since consolidating its men's and women's athletic departments.
The solid orange power ''T'' is used for the men's teams, while a unique version features the words ''Lady Volunteers'' in blue for the women's teams.
''That logo stands for so much,'' Cronan said. ''People talk about logos. McDonald's wouldn't give up its arches. McDonald's [restaurants] are recreating how they look, but they still have that arch. Tennessee athletics is recreating how it looks, but I think the Lady Vols will still be a vital part of it.''
Cronan was the Tennessee women's athletic director from 1983-2012, building one of the nation's most respected women's athletics programs.
She filled in as the school's overall interim athletic director in 2011 before Dave Hart took over on a permanent basis. For the past two years, Cronan has been women's athletic director emeritus and adviser and consultant to the chancellor.
Legendary coach Pat Summitt built the women's basketball program at Tennessee and her teams won eight national titles before she retired in 2012 and became head coach emeritus.
''Joan Cronan's vision, passion and tireless efforts to grow women's athletics and to promote women's opportunities made a huge difference across the nation for women in sports,'' Summitt said in a statement released by her foundation. ''Joan was the driving force in elevating the prominence and brand of Tennessee Lady Vol athletics through strategy, excellence and priceless relationships.
''Joan expected my best each day, and I expected her best each day. Over the years, Joan and I sharpened each other. I consider her a great friend and true champion.''
Cronan plans to continue speaking and fundraising for the university, but she also will devote more time to other interests, which include writing a book that discusses how lessons learned from sports can be used in life and business.
During her tenure, the Lady Vols also won two national championships in women's indoor track. Tennessee is naming its new volleyball practice facility after Cronan.
''I feel the same way about Joan in this regard that I do Pat,'' Hart said. ''What they have meant -- not only to the University of Tennessee but to women's athletics nationally -- is hard to adequately put into a statement. They've been pioneers. They've done wonders for the advancement of women's sports.''
Cronan's career plans began at 12 when she wasn't permitted to play Little League baseball because of her gender.
''You know the Barbara Mandrell song, that she was country before it was cool to be country?'' Cronan said. ''Well, I was a tomboy before it was cool for women to be in sports. I knew I loved to play and I knew I loved to compete. When they wouldn't let me play baseball, it made me mad. My thought was, 'Why not?' ''
The 70-year-old Cronan will maintain the emeritus title in retirement.