INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA (February 24, 2022) – Dr. Mike Blackburn, CMAA, has announced his retirement as the executive director of the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA), effective January 20, 2023. He will retire in his seventh year as executive director, after spending the previous 11 years as NIAAA associate executive director. Before joining the NIAAA as a staff member, Blackburn spent 28 years as a high school athletic administrator/assistant principal.
In 2005, Blackburn came to the NIAAA from Northwestern School Corporation, located in Howard County, Kokomo, Indiana. He succeeded executive director Bruce Whitehead in 2016, with whom he served as associate executive director. Blackburn’s retirement will conclude a nearly 51-year career that includes NIAAA leadership, school athletic administration, teaching and coaching.
“It has been a privilege to serve alongside our members and staff for the welfare of the profession and the association. I am sincerely grateful, and my words are insufficient to express my appreciation.” Blackburn stated. “The NIAAA finds its strength in member selflessness, integrity, collegiality, and a volunteer spirit for the greater good. These qualities have always been and must continue to be, paramount for the NIAAA. My life has been blessed by personal relationships throughout my career and I will always cherish so many nurtured within the NIAAA family.”
During Blackburn’s tenure the NIAAA has continued its pursuit of excellence in professional development of those who administer the nation’s school-based athletic programs. Enhancements include implementation of the Learning Management System (LMS) that allowed for online course delivery and provided Professional Development Academy (PDA) State Coordinators ready access to teaching materials for their states. The association’s 5th Strategic Plan was developed in 2019-2020 and became effective in 2021. The NIAAA received re-accreditation commissioned by Cognia in 2021, and the national office underwent renovation during that year. ‘NIAAA U’ instituted a series of yearlong specialty cohort studies, the Certification Program grew to six certifications by adding two levels for international athletic administrators, and the PDA Leadership Team was restructured and expanded.
The NIAAA office staff numbers have doubled since 2016, and the staff has provided increased member services including significant expansion of digital communications. Royalties provided to state athletic administrator associations have increased by over 200% in the last six years. During that same time the Leadership Training Institute curriculum expanded by 15 new courses, and nearly all courses required for certification became available online. All told, the number of courses has increased by 157% since 2005 and a total of 55 course titles will be offered in 2022. Also, since 2005 NIAAA membership has grown by 144%, roughly 7,500 members to a record total of over 12,500. Under Blackburn’s leadership, the top five attended National Athletic Director Conferences were held from 2016 to 2020. Of the 53 conferences held, six of the top seven were among the most recent national conferences conducted from 2016 to 2021.
“Dr. Blackburn has been an exemplary servant leader for the NIAAA. He has led this organization to new highs in membership, and we continue to be fiscally sound,” NIAAA Board President Mike McGurk said. “It has been through Mike’s devoted leadership that we have been able to overcome obstacles including the pandemic and a virtual conference, and still be making continued progress as an organization. We appreciate his dedication to the NIAAA, and we wish him the best on his impending retirement.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic the NIAAA staff worked to expand online course offerings while also adding free online workshops. The effort was designed to assist athletic administrators in their role, help encourage their colleagues, and assist their personal mental well-being.
“The years of association progress has rested on the shoulders of the NIAAA Board, the work of the staff, Professional Development Academy Leadership Team, and servant leadership of hundreds of volunteer instructors, presenters, committee members, and many other roles. I am thankful for God’s blessing of support from family, mentors, colleagues, and staff at all levels of my career,” Blackburn said. “Prior NIAAA directors Bruce Whitehead and Frank Kovaleski established and built upon a foundation that directed the path of the association. We are all made better by those with whom we serve, and I am so appreciative of associate executive director Phil Rison and am very proud of each member of our talented and caring staff.”
Affiliation with the NIAAA has been professionally long standing for Blackburn. He became a Certified Athletic Administrator (CAA) in 1989, followed by earning the Certified Master Athletic Administrator (CMAA) in 2001. He was a longtime member of the Publications Committee, including a stint as chair and served on the NIAAA’s 1st Strategic Planning Committee in 1999-2000. He was selected to join the board of directors beginning in 2006, however he became the associate executive director 6-months prior. During his years of service, he has been a part of 125 NIAAA Board meetings and has had the pleasure to serve alongside nearly 50% of those who have been on the board since its inception. He was a member of the Indiana Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (IIAAA) board of directors, leading a term as the IIAAA President and several years as permanent secretary. In addition, he served two terms on the Board of Directors and was vice chair of the Executive Committee for the Indiana High School Athletic Association and completed a term on the NFHS national conference advisory committee.
Blackburn’s teaching and coaching career spans three Indiana schools/districts in Howard, Noble, and Fulton counties. His first year in athletic administration was the initial year of the NIAAA’s formation. He earned a Ph.D. in educational administration from Indiana State University and holds both a Master of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees in education.
Blackburn has received the NIAAA Award of Merit, NIAAA Distinguished Service Award, NFHS Citation, NIAAA Commendation, and NIAAA State Award of Merit. He was the IIAAA Athletic Director of the Year and received the Indiana Association of Educational Office Professional (IAEOP) Administrator of the Year. He has been inducted into the National Association of Sports and Physical Education (NASPE) Presidential Hall of Fame, the Northwestern High School Hall of Fame, and the Howard County Sports Hall of Fame.
He and his wife, Brenda, have three adult children and spouses along with Blackburn’s nine grandchildren.