Opelousas Native Gets Inducted Into Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame
The Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame will induct its latest class this weekend.
Former UL cornerback Charles Tillman is in that class, as are basketball stars Lou Dunbar and Kerry Kittles and journalists Robin Fambrough and Tim Brando--among other inductees.
One of this year's inductees is from Acadiana. That inductee went from being denied the chance to play sports while growing up because she was a girl to running one of the premier athletic departments in the NCAA.
Joan Cronin will receive the hall's Dave Dixon Leadership Award. Cronin grew up in Opelousas. As a young girl, Cronan wanted to play baseball. League leaders refused to allow her to play because she was a girl.
Cronin used that rejection as an opportunity to build opportunities for other young women to play sports.
After graduating from Opelousas High School, Cronan received her degree from LSU. She returned to Opelousas High as an assistant girls' basketball coach. She helped the head coach Ann Hollier and the Tigers' girls squad win the 1966 state championship, the only girls' basketball state title in school history.
From there, Cronan accepted a position at Northwestern State University. In her two years in Natchitoches, she helped build the women's basketball, volleyball, and tennis programs in the final years before Title IX came into existence. After that, Cronan moved to the University of Tennessee, where she coached the Lady Vols women's basketball team for two years. In 1969, she led the Lady Vols to the first ever women's National Invitational Collegiate Basketball Tournament.
Cronan soon moved into athletics administration. She served 10 years as the athletic director at the College of Charleston. For a few years, Cronan served simultaneously as the head women's basketball, volleyball, and tennis coach and as athletic director. During her time at Charleston, the American Women's Sports Foundation named the college as the number-one women's athletic program in the country.
In 1983, she returned to University of Tennessee to become the school's women's athletics director. She applied for that job after being told about it by then Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt. Cronan and Summitt helped grown the Volunteers' athletics programs into some of the premiere women's athletics programs in the United States. During her tenure as women's athletics director at Tennessee, the Volunteers' women's sports won seven national championships and recorded 37 top-five NCAA finishes. All 11 women's sports at the University of Tennessee reached their respective national tournaments during Cronan's tenure.
Later, after the University of Tennessee merged its men's and women's athletic departments into one, Cronan briefly served as the director of the newly-merged department. She retired in 2012 and was given emeritus status by the university.
Cronin already is a member of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame and the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. On Saturday, Cronin will receive the David Williams Significant Historical Achievement Award from the University of Tennessee. She'll receive that award virtually only hours before being inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.
Cronin was a guest on The AuZone on ESPN 1420 in October 2019. She discussed her early years growing up in Opelousas and her career in college sports during that interview. You can listen to that interview by clicking the window below.