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History of the NIAAA
History of the NIAAA
History of the NIAAA



Prior to the formation of the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association there were attempts made by athletic administrators in the field to organize a national association. One 1962 inquiry through the National Education Association proved unsuccessful, but a second effort during the 1969 AAHPER national convention resulted in the creation of the National Council of Secondary School Athletic Directors. While functioning as an organization of directors of athletics there were no national meetings conducted. NCSSAD eventually became a sub-division of NASPE and under the auspices of the American Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAPHERD). In St. Louis, Missouri, on February 1971, the NFHS sponsored its initial National Conference for High School Directors of Athletics, with 300 in attendance. Friction developed between AAHPER and NFHS with neither interested in forming an active association for athletic administrators. While the NCSSAD appointed leadership roles, the NFHS continued to grow attendance at the national conference.

At the NFHS Athletic Directors Advisory Committee in February of 1976, a formal discussion regarding formation of a national organization was brought forth. The NFHS considered state athletic director associations to be sufficient representation. However, the organization did entertain the grass roots movement among directors of athletics concerned with the void of a voice in national decisions, and sometimes-even misrepresentation of leaders of interscholastic athletic programs. At the December 1976 San Diego national conference a meeting was scheduled for attending athletic administrators to discuss a formal request for NFHS assistance in forming a national organization of high school athletic administrators. Subsequently the NFHS executive committee approved formation of a national athletic administrators association and made available funds to begin. In 2007, the NIAAA returned the provided $5,000 to the NFHS Foundation as a gift for the original formation funds.

A 1977 organizational meeting was held in Elgin, Illinois, and a Constitution Committee was formed with NFHS assistant director, Tom Frederick serving as a liaison. This committee acted as the executive board until the election of officers at the first annual meeting. Significant recommendations generated by the Constitution Committee included: 1) establishing the name National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association, 2) designating the annual national conference as the official time and place for the NIAAA’s Annual Meeting, 3) designated the quarterly magazine, Interscholastic Athletic Administration (IAA) as the official publication of the NIAAA, 4) adoption of the official NIAAA colors and logo, 5) drafting of the association’s tentative Constitution and By-Laws, 6) selection of a slate of candidates for the first election, 7) solicitation of membership into the NIAAA through mailing of membership invitation brochures to each high school athletic director in the nation, and 8) designing of the first-year operational plan. These items were approved at the first Annual Meeting held at the national conference on December 14, 1977, in Omaha, Nebraska. In addition, the NIAAA Awards and Publications Committees began, and dues were set at $15 per member. First year membership was 952 charter members. 1979 brought the first board of directors that included representatives appointed by 8 sections. The year 1980 saw the Delegate Assembly legislative body adopted, 1982 the NIAAA became a 501c3 association, and 1985 brought the NIAAA Policies, Operations and Procedures Manual.

With NFHS affiliation, the official office address was Elgin, Illinois. In May, 1979 headquarters moved to Kansas City, Missouri; and again in February, 2000, when the NFHS relocated in Indianapolis, Indiana. In July 1989, Frank Kovaleski, CAA, succeeded Frederick as liaison to the NIAAA, and in 2003 became the first national director and employee of the NIAAA. Key programs for the NIAAA began in 1988 with Certification, followed by the Leadership Training Program offering the initial course in 1996. Upon Frank’s retirement, Bruce Whitehead, CMAA, was named to the position as first NIAAA Executive Director in January, 2005. That same year Mike Blackburn, CMAA, became the first NIAAA Associate Executive Director; the NIAAA assumed responsibility for all of its organizational business and developed its first $1 million budget. 2005 also began dual state membership, Leadership Training courses were taught oversees for the first time, the Conference Advisory Committee shared by the NIAAA and NFHS replaced the former AD Advisory Committee, and the board secretary position became an elected position by the NIAAA Delegate Assembly. In 2007, the NIAAA established its own offices at 9100 Keystone Crossing, Suite 650 in Indianapolis.

2006 began strong membership growth reaching 10,000 members in 2016. The NIAAA became accredited by the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement in 2011, becoming the first association in the world to be accredited. Other firsts included beginning the NIAAA Hall of Fame in 2009, the Student Scholarship Program in 2007, the Registered Middle School Athletic Administrator (RMSAA) certification, and the Professional Outreach Program in 2005. Upon Bruce’s retirement in 2016, Dr. Mike Blackburn moved to the Executive Director role in July 2016. Phil Rison, CMAA, was selected as the Associate Executive Director.

From 2016 to 2019 the NIAAA has expanded to include a learning management system that has spawned online Leadership Training Institute course offerings, and an LTI curriculum that has reached a 49 LTI course offering. Membership has grown to over 12,000, the budget has surpassed $2 million, NIAAA U ¬– cohort study has begun, and the NIAAA celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2017. 4 international LTI courses are now offered, and an initial international certification started in 2019, the Registered International Athletic Administrator (RIAA). All certification categories reached record numbers in 2018, the national conference for directors of athletics reached its highest attendance in December 2018 in San Antonio, Texas. As well, the NIAAA staff has grown to 7 full time servant leaders.

Throughout the history of the NIAAA, grass root effort and volunteerism have shown the way in growth, and providing what the athletic administrator professional needs. The model includes leadership, ownership in the association mission, contributions to the daily growth of the professional and a desire to improve, excel and give back.

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