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Celebrating 50 years of Title IX with Tennessee Women's Athletic Director Emeritus, Joan Cronan

During Joan Cronan's 29-year tenure at Tennessee, she expanded the women's athletic department from seven programs to 11.
Credit: AP
Former Tennessee women's athletic director Joan Cronan speaks after being presented with the first NCAA President's Pat Summitt Award at the NCAA Convention Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017, in Nashville, Tenn. Summit was the women's basketball coach at Tennessee for 38 years before retiring due to a diagnosis of early onset dementia. Summit died June 28, 2016, at age 64. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Fifty years ago to the day, landmark legislation was passed that prohibits sex-based discrimination in federally funded education programs. 

This law opened the door for women in sports. Prior to the passing of Title IX  in 1972, women received only around 2% of schools' athletic budgets, and athletic scholarships for women were nonexistent. 

Now, women receive almost half of the total athletic scholarship dollars at Division I schools.

At the University of Tennessee, Women's Athletic Director Emeritus Joan Cronan was a pioneer for women's athletics. She holds the distinction of becoming the first female athletics director for the entire department at UT when she served as Interim Vice Chancellor and Athletics Director in 2011.

"I go back to wanting to support a Title IX scenario when I was 12 and they wouldn't let me play little league baseball, and it made me mad," Cronan said.

The University of Tennessee hired Cronan as its Director of Women's Athletics in 1983. At the time, the university had only seven women's programs. 

During Cronan's tenure, the women's athletics department expanded to eleven sports.

"I credit Tennessee with that because they said, 'Yes' to women before it was cool to say yes to women. But I also credit Title IX," Cronan said. 

Joan Cronan made it her mission, alongside her great friend, Coach Pat Summitt, to put women's athletics on a national stage.

When Tennessee was building Thompson-Boling Arena, Joan Cronan convinced Pat Summitt to switch from playing games at Stokley Athletic Center, which fit roughly 12,000 fans, to the brand new Thompson Boling Arena. 

Summitt wanted to have Stokley as the Lady Vols' home court so she wouldn't have to compete for practice time with the men's team.

"We were building the largest arena in the country," Cronan said. "My thought process was, 'You only get one chance to make a good first impression.' After the first game when we sold it (Thompson-Boling Arena) out, Pat wrote me a note and simply said, 'You were right.'" 

    

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