‘This community embraced me from the start’: SUU athletics director Corum announces retirement

Southern Utah University Director of Athletics Debie Corum has announced her retirement, effective June 30 | Photo courtesy of Southern Utah University, St. George News

CEDAR CITY – After nearly 50 years in athletics, Southern Utah University Director of Athletics Debbie Corum has announced her retirement, effective June 30.

Corum formally notified SUU administration, athletics staff, and boosters of her decision on Monday, according to an SUU news release.

“This has been a difficult decision,” Corum said. “I am proud of the work we have accomplished, but now I am looking forward to spending more time with family, which includes seven grandchildren.

My heart is with the student-athletes, coaches and staff at SUU.  This community embraced me from the start, and I will always be thankful for my time in Cedar City.”

SUU administration, fans and athletes alike reacted with praise and appreciation for Corum.

“We are saddened to see Debbie depart SUU, but celebrate her storied career,” Interim President Mindy Benson said. “She paved the way for women leading university athletic programs and served the university well during her tenure here. I, along with the T-Bird Nation, congratulate Debbie on her retirement.”

During Corum’s tenure, SUU athletics has won eight conference team championships and more than 60 individual conference championships. SUU finished second in the conference in the NACDA Learfield IMG College Director’s Cup, which ranks universities based on the overall success of athletic programs. Corum oversaw the facilities upgrades of the Eccles Sports Performance Center, the Jean and Joe LaPour Academic Center for Student-Athletes, and a team room for women’s and men’s basketball.

Upgrades to the America First Event Center included two new video scoreboards, a new competition floor, and the development of a courtside seating program.  Currently under construction is a new turf field for football, new video scoreboard and new LED lighting system for Eccles Coliseum.

During Corum’s tenure, SUU also secured a $1,000,000 gift to assist in renovating the football locker room, and new locker rooms for the women’s and men’s golf teams at the Cedar Ridge Golf Course in Cedar City are in the planning stages.

Apart from the facility improvements and the success in the athletics arena during her tenure at SUU, Corum said she is most proud of the 33% increase in graduation rates. She personally witnessed each graduate walk across the stage to receive their degree.

“As educators, that is really what our jobs are all about,” Corum said in the news release.

Corum’s career spans from her days as a student activist advocating for the initiation of a women’s intercollegiate basketball team at her alma mater Vanderbilt University, to being named SUU’s director of athletics and becoming the first woman named director of athletics at an NCAA Division I university in Utah.

Nationally known and respected, Corum was honored by the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators (NACWAA – now known as Women Leaders in College Sports) as Conference Administrator of the Year and later served on the NACWAA Board of Directors. Corum was one of 12 people nationwide selected to be a panelist for the U.S. Secretary of Education’s Commission on Opportunity in Athletics. She served on the prestigious NCAA Division I Championship Committee and the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee.

As a high school student, Corum participated in interscholastic basketball, softball, tennis and volleyball.  She swam on the club swim team during the summer, since the swim season conflicted with the basketball season during the school year. As an undergraduate, her advocacy for women’s sports laid the groundwork for the initiation of Vanderbilt’s women’s intercollegiate teams, which commenced the year after Corum’s graduation.

Corum began her professional career as a high school coach for girls’ basketball, soccer, softball and volleyball. She was then hired by the Southeastern Conference (SEC) where she progressed to be the Director of Championships. She left the SEC for Stanford University, becoming assistant athletic director.

When Louisiana State University lost the lawsuit filed by female athletes who argued for more participation opportunities, Corum’s reputation for integrity and competence led to LSU recruiting her to be associate athletic director and serve as the liaison to the court, leading the University through the corrective action necessary to comply with Title IX. After a four-year stint at LSU, the Southeastern Conference brought Corum back to serve as associate commissioner, where she stayed for 12 years, culminating in 18 years at the SEC.

When the University of Connecticut recruited her to be the senior associate athletic director, Corum welcomed the opportunity to be back on campus and work with the student-athletes. A change in Connecticut’s leadership led to Corum going west to SUU, where she earned the respect of then-President Scott Wyatt and was named director of athletics.

Corum plans to retire to the Southeast near children and grandchildren.

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