Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Guru's College Report: Sue Donohue Steps Down From the NCAA

By Mel Greenberg

As the Guru continues to play catch up this Sunday night on Halloween eve, one of the major news stories last week was Sue Donohue, vice president of Division I Women's Basketball, deciding to step down at the end of November from her position with the NCAA..

The Guru has learned it was a family situation that was involved in her decision, period, though when the announcement came out of the blue, knowing that the NCAA is undergoing a major internal reorganization, which sounds like an imitation of the newspaper business these days, he could not helo wondering whether this was the next shoe after longtime men's basketball honcho Tom Jernstedt was let go a little over a year ago after Mark Emmert took office.

A replacement will be hired, according to several sources, though how soon remains to be seen. Many quality names the Guru could think of who would make excellent candidates either don't want to move to Indianapolis, the headquarters of the NCAA, aren't interested in the demands of that particular job, or just flat out don't want to work for the NCAA.

Anyhow Sue will be missed. She, along with Rick Nixon, NCAA media liason for women's basketball, and her assistant Michelle Perry have been helpful over the years in getting the annual breakfast of the United States Basketball Writers Association -- women's division -- on the schedule during the Women's Final Four.

Sue was also helpful in just being able to clarify situations when they have arisen and others have spoken of the job she did inviting the media to participate in the mock bracket exercises at NCAA headquarters in recent years.

It seems like only yesterday that Sue shifted over from the men's championship to the women's side and the year she did was quite hectic because in 2000 the NCAA was moving from Kansas City to Indy, meaning some gaps occurred in staff positions left vacant by those not wanting to make the move.

It was also the year that Philadelphia was hosting the Women's Final Four, the first time the event was held in a major metro center. For most of the time in the transition the media position was vacant.

Now all this created some problems, especially since it was before media credentialing became streamlined via computers.

Cathy Andruzzi, who was head of the local organizing committee back then before going back into coaching, was media savy enough that she could do a lot of the site work in terms of seating chart, etc., to help fill the void.

But forms used to be mailed and then sent back and the system got a little waylaid in all the transitioning, which created a panic because reporters (back in the days when newspapers sent their reporters without regard to who was playing or where it was being held) were not seeing the application form in their mail boxes (as in U.S. Postal not email).

And when panic sets in with the media in NCAA matters, Guru Central's phone begins to ring off the belt holster. (We are in the cell phone age).

Anyhow, since the Guru knew pretty much who the regulars were and who all was legitimate, for those who still hadn't seen their form, the Guru devised a specially coded worded sentence so they could make the call to Sue and the request and get their application or get on the approved list instantaneously.

If you remember, the four teams were UConn, Tennessee, Rutgers and Penn State. With the latter two being locally followed, besides the Philly connections from UConn (Geno Auriemma) and Tennessee (Kristen "Ace" Clement from Cardinal O'Hara), the media request for the then-named Wachovia Center in South Philadelphia was huge and remains a record to this day.

And so does the feed Andruzzi provided for the media work room.

But the little plan worked and no one was left out of the mix and besides the regular Inquirer army assigned as the host paper, the Guru was able to get his special fifth column credentialed with the caveat that they run around the arena for him gathering notes for his part of the paper's coverage.

Anyhow, as Sue has been informed, she may be leaving the NCAA but not Guru nation and she is on the list for a special project the Guru plans to initiate here in early January.

But the Guru wishes her all the best in her next venture and also the NCAA all the best in being able to land the right candidate to replace her.

-- Mel


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