History Reveals Legacy

It is well established in dusty textbooks and derelict files that the National Federation of State High School Associations owes its origins to a small group of Midwest high school athletic associations, and that the most significant accomplishment within the National Federation’s first decade of existence was to influence the end of national tournaments for high school teams and individuals.

I joined this National Federation as a staff member about halfway through the organization’s march to its centennial celebration scheduled for 2019. A large part of my initial duties was helping to administer recently started services for high school athletic directors – first a national conference, then a publication, and then a national organization, now called the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association.

This programming was launched in large part to frustrate efforts by what was then called the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education and Recreation, which had formed a national athletic directors organization that was tending in directions the National Federation opposed – from federal legislation to national competitions.

A few years later, the National Federation created the National Federation Interscholastic Coaches Association. Again, a primary reason for doing so was to counter the efforts of a man in Florida who had created a national high school athletic coaches association whose almost sole purpose was to conduct national high school championship events.

National Federation opposition to national events in high school athletics is not “one and done.” Yes, it’s in the core of the National Federation’s founding; but it’s also at the heart of its more recent launching of national organizations and services for athletic directors, and then for coaches.

Opposition to national high school athletic events isn’t ancient history for the National Federation; it is the organization’s living legacy.


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About the Author

Jack Roberts

Jack Roberts has been at the helm of the MHSAA as its Executive Director since 1986, implementing programs and overseeing tournament administration and regulations for the Association which boasts 1,500 member schools, 10,000 registered officials and 13,000 head coaches.

During the last 45 years, Roberts has spoken to educator and athletic groups, business leaders and civic groups in almost every state and five Canadian provinces. He is one of the nation's most articulate advocates for educational athletics.

Roberts has served on the board of directors of the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO), is in his second term on the board of the National Federation of State High School Associations, and is the first chairman of the NFHS Network board of directors. He has been board president for the Refugee Development Center for nine years, and is a past-chair of the board of directors of the Michigan Society of Association Executives. He is chair of the board of trustees for the Capital Region Community Foundation for 2018.

He is a 1970 graduate of Dartmouth College, where he played defensive safety for the Ivy League's winningest football team during that span, and he sang in Dartmouth's close harmony vocal group.

His wife, Peggy, has retired from a 30-year career in social services, and is serving as president of the board of the Fenner Nature Conservancy in Lansing.