Joan Cronan speaks about being named UT's interim athletic director
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the transition of roles for Joan Cronan.
The change at the top of the University of Tennessee's athletic department will now feature a brand new view.
When UT Chancellor Jimmy Cheek and his search committee settle on a replacement for departing men's athletic director Mike Hamilton, who announced his resignation Tuesday, they'll be filling a position that's never existed in a department that was on its way, but had not yet fully embraced a complete unification.
Longtime UT women’s athletic director Joan Cronan, who was named the university’s interim vice chancellor/director of athletics Thursday, will leave that post when a permanent vice chancellor/director of athletics is named, and return to her job as women's athletic director.
In June 2012 she will take on the role as a senior adviser to the school’s vice chancellor and chancellor through June 2014. Her position won’t be filled, as the school’s new hire, which is expected to be made in the next six to eight weeks, will oversee the entire athletic department.
It marks a long-anticipated, yet still significant, change to one of the nation's largest athletic departments, which bucked a nationwide trend of putting all sports under one roof in response to the Title IX movement.
"When you have administrative changes, such as a resignation, it's also the right time to make structural changes if they're needed," Cheek said in a statement to the News Sentinel. "Joan was fully in favor of combining departments and having one director.
"This puts us in a stronger position as we search for the next athletic director."
Tennessee and the University of Texas are the only two of more than 300 Division I schools in the country with separate departments for men's and women's athletics.
Most schools merged their respective departments during the 1970s and '80s because of Title IX legislation, which put men's and women's college athletics on equal footing through federal laws.
The most recent transition was in 2007, when the University of Arkansas merged its two departments under similar circumstances.
The sustained success of the Pat Summitt-led women's basketball program provided a strong backbone to the Lady Vols' brand, which features 10 sports and includes a distinct logo, color scheme and website.
And that's not expected to change, Cronan said, even though some behind-the-scenes "tweaking" will bring about differences to the overall structure.
"I can't say what we did was not successful, because it was," Cronan said. "I think as we go to the future, we tweak things.
"I didn't want the Lady Vols to lose their identity or their voice, and that's not going to happen in this transition."
Summitt, who Cheek consulted before promoting Cronan to her new post, said she wasn't sure that the departments would inevitably merge, but stressed she had "no reservations" with the transition.
"It may be the best way to go," Summitt said.
Cronan, 67, was short on specifics when it came to the remaining changes the department must implement before she moves into her new role.
In recent years, the UT athletic department had already combined its previously separate media relations departments, ticket offices and compliance staffs.
Cronan said she doesn't expect the transition to cut or add costs into the future.
"I think it's a flat line," Cronan said. "I think it's just a matter of doings things right."
Cronan, who makes an annual salary of $225,000 plus bonuses, will not receive a raise and did not have her contract altered despite her shift in positions.
Hamilton's resignation is effective June 30.
Cheek said he and a committee, which "represents the faculty, staff and athletic programs" and also includes Cronan, are currently embarking on a nationwide search to replace Hamilton.
Cronan, who has 38 years of experience as an athletic director and has spent the previous 29 at UT, will not be among the candidates.
"I love the title interim athletic director," Cronan joked, "and I'm looking forward to being a part of the search."