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Vol. 52, No. 3 • March 2015 • .pdf version
Donohoe receives first Haverbeck Award
By MEL GREENBERG
When the time came to start thinking about who would receive our first Mary Jo Haverbeck Award – named for the pioneering women's SID at Penn State who passed away a year ago in January – there were several criteria to consider for the inaugural honor.
In no particular order, find someone who has been a similar trailblazer of sorts and earned respect opening doors.
Find someone who fits the same requirements in service to the media as is established in the equivalent Katha Quinn Award on the men's side.
And, because it is the newest award from USBWA on the women's side, find someone who knew Mary Jo well and was also known by her.
Ironically, unbeknown to us at the time of the decision, we selected a worthy recipient who held the same responsibilities overseeing basketball at the NCAA as this year's Katha Quinn winner, Tom Jernstedt, who is also no longer with the NCAA.
So we are proud to announce Sue Donohoe, the former NCAA vice president of Division I women's basketball who is currently the executive director of the Kay Yow Cancer Fund and also is serving as the current president of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame board of directors.
"I am really touched. I am truly honored," Donohoe said recently when the call was made to give her the news. "I knew Mary Jo for a long time because she served on our media coordination committee every year at the Women's Final Four. We always looked forward to having her with us."
Donohoe, who also served a stint as the NCAA director of the Division I men's basketball championship, will receive the Mary Jo Haverbeck Award at the USBWA Awards presentation ceremony in the arena several hours before the Women's Final Four semifinals in April in Tampa.
A native of Pineville, La., Donohoe has also been on USA Basketball women's selection committees, worked on the executive staff of the Southland Conference and in women's athletics at Arkansas.
At Stephen F. Austin, she was an assistant coach to current Texas A&M coach Gary Blair and was also a grad assistant at Louisiana Tech.
Donohoe was also a head coach at Lake Highlands High School in Dallas, compiling a 124-24 record from 1983-90.
The Chronicle of Higher Education once named her one of the "Top 10 Most Powerful People in College Sports."
In her role at the NCAA, Donohoe reached out to the media covering the women's game, holding a pow-wow one year with the national group to exchange views on how to help each other and she also instituted the same Mock Media Bracket Exercise as had been started with the men's media.
"Being able to lift the curtain on the selection, seeding and bracketing process was and continues to be an important part of our championship mission and Sue had a key role in the NCAA starting that initiative," said Rick Nixon, an NCAA associate director in the media and statistics departments who is our media guy with the organization for all things women's basketball.
"Knowing that knowledge is power, Sue began the push to involve media and WBCA head coaches in mock selection exercises and, to date, the NCAA has had the opportunity to reach over 300 individuals with those exercises.
"She was also instrumental in forming the first large group discussions that brought the various women's basketball stakeholders to the table to discuss the best future path for the game, including media, broadcast partners, head coaches and corporate entities."
This past summer at the start of her term with the WBHOF – which is headquartered in Knoxville, Tenn. – Donohoe instituted a teleconference with the members of this June's induction class soon after their announcement and the event produced several news items and some nice feature material to be written about the group.
"What strikes me about Sue is her boundless energy to not only do the mundane, but to do a really out-of-the-box thing, whether it's with the media, whether it's with things behind the scenes with the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, but maybe more than her boundless energy is her spirit when you're with her and how she puts everybody at ease and everybody will follow her and work as hard as she is working," said Carol Callan, director of USA Basketball women's programs, who preceded Donohoe's role with the WBHOF.
Since he has become a regular at the NCAA Women's Final Four with nine titles and many other appearances, Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma has known both Donohoe and Jernstedt.
"For all the years she put into the NCAA and growing the game to where we had 30,000 at the Alamodome (in San Antonio), no one deserves it more than Sue," Auriemma said.
"When you look at Sue and Tom, there's two people who were driving forces behind the tournament. They were visionaries that the NCAA really needed at the time. I got to know both of them really, really well and I just admire them a lot."
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