KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – University of Tennessee Athletics Director Emeritus Joan Cronan and former graduate assistant Beth Bass were among seven women inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday night at the Tennessee Theatre.
Members of the Class of 2019, the 21st group of inductees, include Bass (Contributor), Cronan (Contributor), Nora Lynn Finch (Contributor), Ticha Penicheiro (International Player), Ruth Riley (Player), Carolyn Bush Roddy (Veteran Player) and Valerie Still (Player). They were awarded their coveted Eastman Trophy and Baron Championship induction rings.
Cronan was the highly-respected, long-time women’s athletics director at Tennessee before her retirement, while Bass began her career as a graduate assistant in the UT women’s athletics department.
The addition of Cronan and Bass brings the total of honorees with UT ties to 14. Previous selections include coaches Pat Summitt (1999) and Mickie DeMoss (2018), administrator Gloria Ray (2010) and players Cindy Noble Hauserman (2000), Patricia Roberts (2000), Holly Warlick (2001), Cindy Brogdon (2002), Daedra Charles-Furlow (2007), Bridgette Gordon (2007), Jill Rankin Schneider (2008), Nikki McCray (2012) and Chamique Holdsclaw (2018).
Cronan and Bass took part in a media availability on Friday afternoon before participating in an autograph session on Saturday afternoon as well as the VIP reception, induction ceremony and post-induction celebration on Saturday night. Cronan is the second UT women’s A.D. to join the hall, following Ray with that distinction.
In addition to inducting the Class of 2019, the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame recognized key contributors from the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) for their contributions to the game with a display at the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame entitled “Trailblazers of the Game.”
Under the vision and direction of Cronan, the UT Lady Vols garnered a reputation as one of the most visible and respected athletics departments throughout the nation. UT’s success in both the athletic and academic realms spoke volumes about her decision-making and leadership ability.
Cronan grew up in Opelousas, La., graduated from LSU and arrived in Knoxville in 1968 to teach at the University of Tennessee and coach women’s basketball. After serving as women’s athletics director, coach and professor at the College of Charleston from 1973-83, she and her family returned to East Tennessee in 1983 and made Knoxville their permanent home.
She forged a highly-decorated career in collegiate athletics as an administrator and advocate for student-athletes at UT. She is respected nationally for her skills as a leader, motivator, strategic thinker, public speaker and team builder and for the integrity with which she runs an organization.
Taking over as women’s athletics director at UT in 1983, she gradually expanded the program from seven to 11 sports, and helped the department increase annual giving from $75,000 to more than $2 million per year. During her 29-year tenure (1983-2012), Tennessee women’s teams won 10 NCAA Championships, 22 SEC regular season titles and 33 league tourney trophies, finishing first or second in the SEC All-Sports Award race six times.UT teams also produced 41 top-five NCAA finishes and 78 top-10 NCAA outcomes. The success by Lady Vol teams was matched by an expectation for excellence in the classroom and a philosophy of giving back to the community.
A history-maker and member of six halls of fame, 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. She was named the 2005 Athletic Director of the Year & 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award by Women Leaders in College Sports (formerly NACWAA). She also was the first recipient of the NCAA Pat Summitt Award in 2017 and was the 2018 recipient of NACDA’s top honor – The James Corbett Award.
In addition to her leadership at UT, Cronan is a former president of the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators (NACWAA), past president of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame and served on NCAA’s Executive Committee, Championship Cabinet, Management Council, Leadership Council, as well as the NCAA Council.
During Bass’ career, she most notably served as the CEO of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) from 2001-14. She assisted in the 2007 launch of the WBCA’s “Think Pink” campaign in support of the Kay Yow Cancer Fund. In 2004, Bass was the recipient of the President’s Award from the National Association of Girls and Women in Sport (NAGWS).
The WBCA Board of Directors hired Bass after a highly successful tenure in the sports and fitness industry. With experience as a women’s basketball and women’s sports marketing executive at Converse Inc. and NIKE, Inc., Bass was a catalyst for corporate support of women’s basketball for more than 10 years.
At NIKE, Bass specialized in the firm’s women’s basketball sports marketing endeavors, including coaching endorsements, the WBCA Girls’ High School All-America Game, the inaugural Nike Girls All-America Camp and the Coaches’ Extravaganza at the WBCA National Convention. Prior to NIKE, Bass served as National Sports Marketing Director at Converse from 1986 through 1995, during which time she cultivated Converse’s women’s basketball marketing endeavors including the renowned Converse/WBCA Coach of the Year Award.
Bass’s experience at Converse was not limited to women’s athletics. She coordinated several marketing and merchandise programs geared toward the global basketball audience. These efforts encompassed basketball at a variety of levels including recreational basketball with “Hoop it Up”, men’s college basketball with the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) and professional basketball with the NBA’s All-Star Weekend.
After graduating in 1984 from ETSU, where she was a four-year women’s basketball letterwinner, Bass enrolled at the University of Tennessee. She served as a graduate assistant for marketing & promotions in the Lady Volunteers athletic department, completing her master’s degree in recreation administration at UT in 1986.