Opelousas native and LSU alumnae Joan Cronan, the retired athletics director at the University of Tennessee who was a key in the development of the iconic Lady Volunteers basketball program, is the 2020 winner of the Dave Dixon Louisiana Sports Leadership Award presented by the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.
Enshrined in 2019 in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, Cronan was women’s athletics director at the University of Tennessee from 1983-2012. She then assumed the position of AD and Vice Chancellor before retiring as Athletic Director Emeritus.
On June 27 during the Hall of Fame’s 2020 Induction Dinner and Ceremony in Natchitoches, she will become the 20th recipient of the Dixon Award since its inception in 2005.
An Opelousas native, Cronan has undergraduate (1966) and graduate (1968) degrees from LSU and also worked for a year at Northwestern State (1967) where she coached volleyball, basketball and tennis. Her first coaching job was at her alma mater, Opelousas High, where she was assistant coach under Anne Hollier for the 1966 Class AA girls’ basketball state champions in what was then the state’s highest classification.
Cronan was the inaugural recipient of the NCAA President’s Pat Summitt Award in 2017. The award recognizes an individual for “positively influencing college athletics and their experiences through the individual’s career-long commitment to advocating for women’s sports.”
Cronan has also received the top leadership awards from the National Collegiate Athletic Directors (James Corbett Award), Lead1 (Homer Rice Award), and Women Leaders in College Sports (Lifetime Achievement Award). The Sports Business Journal recognized her as a 2014 Champion: Pioneer and Innovator in Sports Business.
The Dave Dixon Louisiana Sports Leadership Award has been presented annually by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association’s 35-member Hall of Fame selection committee to an individual who has played a decisive role as a sports leader or administrator benefiting Louisiana and/or bringing credit to Louisiana on the national and international level.
It is named in honor of the 1999 LSHOF inductee, an entrepreneur and innovator who is credited as the key figure in bringing an NFL franchise to New Orleans, and the development of the Mercedes Benz Louisiana Superdome.
Cronan is the Dixon Award’s third woman recipient, preceded in 2017 by college basketball administrator Sue Donohoe and last year by tennis official Marie Gagnard.
Cronan will be among the 2020 Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Induction Class to be spotlighted in the annual Induction Dinner and Ceremonies on Saturday evening, June 27, at the Natchitoches Events Center. The Induction Dinner and Ceremonies are the highlight of the 2020 Induction Celebration beginning Thursday afternoon, June 25, with a nationally-televised (Cox Sports Television) press conference at the Hall of Fame museum at 800 Front Street in Natchitoches.
Outdoorsman Phil Robertson, recognized internationally as the Duck Commander, and former LSU football coach Nick Saban, who won 75 percent of his games and the 2003 national championship in five seasons with the Tigers, join eight-time Mr. Olympia world bodybuilding champion Ronnie Coleman and another global sports figure, Sweet Lou Dunbar of the Harlem Globetrotters, among a star-studded group of eight competitive ballot inductees.
The LSHOF Class of 2020 also includes a pair of multiple-year Pro Bowl NFL standouts, New Orleans Saints receiver Joe Horn and Chicago Bears cornerback Charles “Peanut” Tillman, a star at UL Lafayette, along with two extraordinary basketball players: New Orleans native Kerry Kittles, a two-time All-America guard at Villanova who averaged 14 points in an eight-year NBA career, and Louisiana Tech Lady Techsters basketball legend Angela Turner, who helped her teams to four straight national championship game appearances including wins in 1981 and 1982.
Inducted next summer as winners of the Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism will be LSU sports publicist Kent Lowe and Baton Rouge Advocate sportswriter Robin Fambrough.
Receiving the inaugural Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Ambassador Award will be Fox Sports broadcasting personality Tim Brando of Shreveport.
The 2020 Induction Class will be showcased in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Museum, operated by the Louisiana State Museum system in a partnership with the Louisiana Sports Writers Association. The striking $23 million, two-story, 27,500-square foot structure faces Cane River Lake in the National Historic Landmark District of Natchitoches and has garnered worldwide architectural acclaim and rave reviews for its contents since its grand opening during the 2013 Hall of Fame induction weekend.
Cronan’s selection was jointly announced by Hall of Fame chairman Doug Ireland and LSWA president Lenny Vangilder.
Past Dixon Award recipients include the 2018 winner, Steve Gleason, the former New Orleans Saints player who has become globally acknowledged as one of the world’s leading advocates for people diagnosed with ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
In 2008, the Dixon Award went to world-renowned orthopedic Dr. James Andrews, a Homer native, LSU graduate and SEC champion pole vaulter.
Paul Hoolahan, executive director and chief executive officer of the Allstate Sugar Bowl Classic for 23 years, was presented the 2015 Dixon Award.
The 2016 winner was world-renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Julian Bailes, a Natchitoches native and LSU graduate who has become a leading figure in the field of sports-related concussion research and treatment.
Donohoe, who served as the NCAA’s vice president for women’s basketball for 12 years, and also directed the men’s basketball NCAA Division I championship, was the 2017 recipient.
Cronan joined UT from the College of Charleston, where she was athletics director for 10 years and was later inducted in the school’s Hall of Fame. In her tenure there, CoC was selected as the No. 1 women’s athletics program in the country in 1980 by the American Women’s Sports Federation.
Cronan has also been inducted in LSU’s Alumni Hall of Distinction, Fellowship of Christian Athletics Hall of Champions, Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame, Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame, NACDA Hall of Fame, Society of Health and Physical Educators Hall of Fame. Earlier this year, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate Degree from the United States Sports Academy.
Cronan is the author of a book “Sport is Life with Volume Turned Up: Lessons Learned That Apply to Business and Life.”
Her late husband, Dr. Thomas L. Cronan, received his master of science degree from Northwestern State during their year in Natchitoches.
The University of Tennessee and the city of Knoxville have honored her by naming the Lady Vols’ Practice Center after her and designating a street as “Joan Cronan Way.”
The 2020 LSHOF Induction Celebration will kick off Thursday, June 25, with a press conference and reception. The three-day festivities include two receptions, a youth sports clinic, a bowling party, and a Friday night riverbank concert in Natchitoches. Tickets for the Saturday night, June 27 Induction Dinner and Ceremony, along with congratulatory advertising and sponsorship opportunities, are available through the LaSportsHall.com website.
Anyone can receive quarterly e-mails about the 2020 Induction Celebration and other Hall of Fame news by signing up on the LaSportsHall.com website.
Adding to the 350 sports competitors currently enshrined, 19 winners of the Dave Dixon Louisiana Sports Leadership award and 64 recipients of the Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism, there are 433 current members of the Hall of Fame before this summer’s inductions.
The 2020 Induction Celebration weekend will be hosted by the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Foundation, the support organization for the Hall of Fame. The LSHOF Foundation was established as a 501 c 3 non-profit entity in 1975 and is governed by a statewide board of directors. For information on sponsorship opportunities, contact Foundation President/CEO Ronnie Rantz at 225-802-6040.