ACC Legends: Bernadette McGlade of Georgia Tech

Feb. 21, 2012

North Carolina has already claimed Bernadette McGlade as an ACC Legend, citing her playing skills. The conference office could do the same for her development of its championship event as the best of its kind in the country.

For 2012, Georgia Tech has the honors of salutation, handed out on this occasion for Act II of her career, a seven-year coaching tenure that facilitated the institute's rise to prominence in the sport. McGlade therefore becomes the first person to be recognized as a Legend by two institutions.

The New Jersey native's association with the conference actually predates the conference's affiliation with women's basketball. She arrived at UNC in 1976 and the ACC began to sponsor the sport a year later. After pulling down enough rebounds to remain a frequent presence in the Tar Heel record books today, she got into coaching. While that sounds like a reasonable idea these days, it wasn't that simple 40 years ago.

Georgia Tech's first two coaches were men. When McGlade took over the program in 1981, it was several years behind other institutions in development of women's athletics, and growth didn't coincide directly what that of the men's team, which went from ACC cellar-dweller in 1980 to the NCAA's Final Eight by 1985.

But McGlade stuck with it, and in time, recruiting picked up. She signed and coached the first two All-ACC players in Tech's history, center Dolores Bootz and guard Ida Neal. She guided the team to its first winning season (in 1986-87) and left the sidelines for administration after her seventh season in 1988. She turned the reins over to her sister, Agnus Berenato, and the Jackets had stability.

McGlade ultimately joined six of her former players in Georgia Tech's athletics hall of fame.

At Georgia Tech, McGlade oversaw 14 sports, three of which she helped lead from club to Division I status. The NCAA selected her as the local organizing chair of the 1993 Women's Final Four, which became the first advance sellout in the event's 12-year history to that point.

Tech's female enrollment has historically been among the lowest of a comprehensive Division I school, and demography suggests that won't change overnight. But aggressive and successful promotion and marketing of the NCAA's premier women's championship made the socially important statement that women have a valuable place in the nation's finest schools regardless of their numerical representation.

The NCAA later tapped McGlade to chair the tournament selection committee.

In 1997, McGlade moved to the ACC's headquarters as director of women's basketball operations and later as associate commissioner with oversight of Olympic sports championships. Her most important contribution was the progress of the ACC Tournament, which McGlade helped find an essentially permanent home in Greensboro in 2000. The event had sought a big-time venue supported by prime hotel space since its creation, and an agreement with the Greensboro Coliseum made that possible.

The relationship has been mutually beneficial. Current ACC players play in a vibrant atmosphere and the city knows it has postseason college basketball on an annual basis. Several years ago, municipal officials filed a claim on the phrase "Tournament Town" with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

That experience made McGlade a candidate for the job of running her own conference, a gig that was effectively closed to women before the ethical imprimatur of federal legislation took hold in the culture. In 2008, she was named the fifth commissioner of the Atlantic 10 Conference, which is now based in Newport News, Va., and stretches all the way to St. Louis and up the coast to Amherst, Mass.