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Professional Development: Program History
Professional Development: Program History
Professional Development: Program History



The NIAAA Certified Athletic Administrator (CAA) exam was implemented in 1988. Thomas Frederick, liaison to the NIAAA as NFHS Associate Executive Director, pitched the concept of a voluntary certification program in 1984. In 1986, the Professional Development Committee of the NIAAA began to research the potential of certification for directors of athletics. This ad hoc committee became the standing Certification Committee later the same year. At the time, the trend by national associations and professional organizations was to offer voluntary certification. The goal for the NIAAA certification was to increase recognition for specialists in their field through the establishment of high professional standards and commitment.

Successful in their resolve, the first Certified Athletic Administrator (CAA) exam was administered at the National Conference of High School Directors of Athletics in Las Vegas, Nevada on December 11, 1988, to 102 athletic administrators. The exam was intended to be the culmination of the certification process; however, the program developed into one of the most exciting and challenging projects undertaken by the NIAAA. In an effort to stay abreast of information pertinent to the CAA program on a national scope, in 1995 the NIAAA joined the National Certification Commission based in Washington, DC.

In 1999, under the leadership of Frank Kovaleski who would become the first NIAAA National Director, the Board approved two additional levels of certification; Registered Athletic Administrator (RAA) and Certified Master Athletic Administrator (CMAA). By the spring of 2000, the opportunities for athletic administrators became even more robust and valuable to the profession. “Full registration” by the National Certification Commission in 2001 was a notable triumph and solidified the program with regard to national recognition and acceptance. Aggressive strategic planning and innovation has resulted in growth within the program including:

  • The addition of a Registered Middle School Athletic Administrator (RMSAA) certification in 2012
  • Certificate of Accreditation in 2011 by Cognia (formerly AdvancED and North Central Association Commission on Accreditation)
  • Electronic testing format
  • Online testing option
  • CMAA project options
  • University affiliations working collaboratively with the NIAAA toward student certification
  • The first certification option for directors of athletics at international schools, the Registered International Athletic Administrator (RIAA) launched in 2019

The success and recognition of the Leadership Training Institute and Certification programs are spreading globally. Development of leadership training courses for international athletic administrators will lead to defined and specific certifications for our international affiliates.

It is no stretch to say that the exponential growth that began a few short years ago is a symbol of success for a profession that focuses on promoting standards, ethics, commitment to excellence, and achieving professional satisfaction. Dedicated professionals will continue to see the program flourish and grow as emerging knowledge and technology evolve.