Sue Donahoe, Pineville native, Louisiana Tech graduate, former director of both the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball championship and current executive director of the Kay Yow Cancer Fund talks about her time with the Lady Techsters, her love for Archie Manning and her picks (sort of) for the Women’s Final Four:
What kind of athlete were you growing up?
I wasn’t a great athlete, but I was a hard worker. I will say this — I never met a shot I didn’t like. But I probably had a bigger heart than I had talent.
You came of age in the 1970s, when Title IX was first kicking in. Can girls now have any conception of what it was like for girls wanting to compete in those days?
I don’t know that I had to fight the fight that some of the pioneers did. I was fortunate to come from an area than was strong in girls basketball, and then at Louisiana Tech there was such tremendous support from the administration. But I do know that I had a really neat perspective as a former player, then a coach and an administrator for so many years to watch how the landscape has changed. We owe so much to the women that came before us who paved the way.
What is your current fitness regimen?
I had an accident right before Thanksgiving and fractured my leg in two places, so I haven’t done much working out at all. When I’m healthy, I try to work out two of three times a week, and I try to play golf at least three for four months if I can.
You were part of the first two national championship teams at Louisiana Tech. Will we ever see anything like the Lady Techsters again?
We won’t. Every program that’s been around and been successful has its own story. But the Louisiana Tech story always will be a thread in the fabric of women’s basketball. I am extremely proud to be a Lady Techster. We laid the groundwork for a lot of what’s happening today.
How rewarding is the job you’re doing now?
I get up every day, and I know I’m going to have the opportunity to do something that’s going to make a difference. I loved every minute of my work with the NCAA, both the stress and non-stress. But this is a little bit of a higher calling. I had such deep care and love for coach Yow. And now, to get to carry forward her mission, that’s a pretty cool thing in life to get to do.
Who was your favorite athlete when you were growing up?
I’d have to say Archie Manning. I had the 45 of “The Ballad of Archie Who?,” in my collection, and I could sing it through and through. And my other favorite was Pete Maravich. Those are the guys I grew up watching.
Who is your favorite current athlete?
I don’t know that I have a favorite. I don’t concentrate as much on individuals now as I do on team effort. Within women’s basketball, I am constantly amazed at how a program like Connecticut can continue what it’s doing. I’ve really enjoyed watching Notre Dame over the years. Stanford — the way they play the game and the way they’re coached. I just like watching what the teams do.
In your time with the NCAA, who’s the most memorable person you dealt with?
Dr. Condoleezza Rice. I’ve met a lot of very successful folks in the sports world, but in the non-sporting world, Dr. Rice is just a remarkable woman of integrity and strength. She’s a huge sports fan, so she was our guest at the Final Four a couple of times. I just love her enthusiasm for women’s basketball in general and certainly for Stanford.
Who’s going to be here for the Women’s Final Four, and who’s going to be the champion?
There’s going to be four teams here, and one of them is going to win. There are probably about six or seven teams sitting out there waiting for the opportunity. Baylor has been No. 1 for the majority of the year, but you don’t play the game for nothing. On any given night, a team can have a phenomenal game. I think whether it’s Baylor, or Notre Dame, or Stanford, or Duke, or whoever, the Final Four here is going to something pretty extraordinary.