By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Gary Hice's first job in education was as a study hall monitor. But he also got a chance to coach that year at Charlevoix, and that made all the difference.
"I don't know why I came to love it," Hice said of a career in high school athletics that didn't come to an end until nearly 40 years later. "That first job I had as study hall supervisor was not much fun. But I enjoyed working with kids ... and that spurred me to get into education. I think that's the most awesome animal on the face of the Earth, the high school student."
Gina Mazzolini, meanwhile, was a former high school and college star who came off the court as an athlete but returned almost immediately as a coach before rising to administrator with influence at the statewide and national levels – and a similar passion for giving back to the high school game.
“It’s one of those things where I’ve worked in this position because I loved doing it,” Mazzolini said. “I enjoyed working with the adult coaches and adult officials, and then the student-athletes."
Both have served Michigan high school student-athletes for more than 30 years in ways that will continue to impact schools and athletes for years to come.
In recognition of their efforts, they have been named the 2016 recipients of the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s Charles E. Forsythe Award.
The annual award is in its 39th year and named after former MHSAA Executive Director Charles E. Forsythe, the Association's first full-time and longest-serving chief executive. Forsythe Award recipients are selected each year by the MHSAA Representative Council, based on an individual's outstanding contribution to the interscholastic athletics community. Hice and Mazzolini will receive their honors during the break after the first quarter of the MHSAA Class A Boys Basketball Final on March 26 at the Breslin Student Events Center in East Lansing.
Hice retired in 2014 after 30 years as Petoskey’s athletic director overseeing one of the most successful programs in northern Michigan that regularly produced contenders for championships statewide. Under his leadership, Petoskey added five sports, revamped its facilities and became a founding member of the Big North Conference after Hice contributed to its creation.
Mazzolini has served the MHSAA since 1993 and is the administrator for girls volleyball, swimming and diving, alpine skiing and tennis. She also handles the sanctioning of out-of-state competitions and serves as the MHSAA’s point person on foreign exchange and international student issues. Mazzolini will receive a Citation from the National Federation of State High School Associations this summer and was the 2010 recipient of the MHSAA’s Women in Sports Leadership Award.
“Gary Hice and Gina Mazzolini have contributed to Michigan high school athletics on a variety of levels providing vision, leadership and dedication,” MHSAA Executive Director John E. “Jack” Roberts said. “Gary Hice served as a leader of leaders in northern Michigan and provided an example to be followed statewide, while Gina Mazzolini has shaped rules and policies that have impacted programs not only in our state, but nationally as well. We’re proud to honor Gary Hice and Gina Mazzolini with Forsythe Awards.”
After his year at Charlevoix, Hice taught social studies and physical education and coached for one year at Petoskey before spending five years as director of parks and recreation and harbormaster for the City of Petoskey. He returned to the high school as athletic director in 1984.
During his tenure, Petoskey added girls golf, girls soccer, girls bowling, boys bowling and ice hockey programs. Petoskey teams won MHSAA Finals championships in boys skiing, girls skiing, wrestling, boys soccer and boys tennis, and the girls cross country and track and field teams were among those that earned runner-up finishes. The Petoskey girls ski team won four straight titles from 1991-94, and the boys ski team started a championship streak that last month reached six straight seasons. Hice also led the construction in 2000 of a $6-million gymnasium, weight room, wrestling practice area and indoor track at Petoskey High School, and initiated the school’s athletic Hall of Fame.
Hice is a member of both the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association and National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association. He was named state Athletic Director of the Year by the MIAAA in 2011 after receiving its George Lovich Award of Merit in 2008. He also was honored with the MHSAA’s Allen W. Bush Award in 2002 for his often-unseen contributions to high school athletics.
“When you’re in the heat of the battle, you don’t think on those terms,” Hice said of his many contributions and their lasting effects locally and beyond. “But toward the end of my career, I would relish the times when I could help young ADs, new ADs, people who didn’t have a lot of experience. In fact, I miss that today.”
Hice is a longtime member of Kiwanis Clubs, first of Petoskey and currently of Little Traverse Bay, and also has served with the Petoskey Education Foundation, Jeffrey P. Bodzick Memorial Scholarship Foundation and Beyond the Scoreboard initiative that promotes positive character and sportsmanship in northern Michigan’s youth and interscholastic athletics.
After standout basketball and volleyball careers at St. Johns High School and Central Michigan University, Mazzolini taught and coached multiple sports during the 1979-80 school year at Ovid-Elsie High School. She then spent two years teaching and serving as an assistant volleyball coach at Michigan State University, where she also earned her master’s degree in physical education. Mazzolini then left to teach and serve as assistant volleyball coach and interim women’s Sports Information Director at the University of Texas.
In 1982, Mazzolini became an activities director with the University Interscholastic League, the service organization to high school activities in Texas. She became an assistant athletic director at the UIL in 1988, and five years later she returned to Michigan as a member of the MHSAA staff.
"To be recognized by my peers for this award … I’m appreciative and humbled," Mazzolini said. "You do those things because you enjoy them.”
In addition to her work at the MHSAA, Mazzolini has provided a long list of contributions at the national level. She has served as the NFHS representative on the board for the Council on Standards for International Educational Travel, which identifies, promotes and supports international youth exchange programs, and has sat on several CSIET committees. She’s currently serving on the NFHS Annual Meeting Planning Committee and also has served on NFHS rules committees for soccer, swimming and diving, and volleyball (chairing that sport’s rules committee from 2004-08), and on NFHS advisory committees for athletic directors and sports medicine.
She recently was inducted into the Michigan High School Ski Coaches Association Hall of Fame and has served as a voter for the Greater Lansing Sports Hall of Fame.
Mazzolini graduated from St. Johns High School in 1974 after an accomplished career that included leading the Redwings to a District title in the first MHSAA Girls Basketball Tournament in 1973. She went on to star in both basketball and volleyball at CMU; she graduated in 1978 as the leading scorer, rebounder and shot-blocker in CMU history and still ranks among the Chippewas’ leaders in multiple statistical categories. She was inducted into the CMU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1992.
Hice graduated from Ann Arbor Huron High School in 1970. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Eastern Michigan University in 1974 and his master’s at CMU in 1989, and received Certified Athletic Administrator certification from the NIAAA in 1994.
1978 - Brick Fowler, Port Huron; Paul Smarks, Warren
1979 - Earl Messner, Reed City; Howard Beatty, Saginaw
1980 - Max Carey, Freesoil
1981 - Steven Sluka, Grand Haven; Samuel Madden, Detroit
1982 - Ernest Buckholz, Mt. Clemens; T. Arthur Treloar, Petoskey
1983 - Leroy Dues, Detroit; Richard Maher, Sturgis
1984 - William Hart, Marquette; Donald Stamats, Caro
1985 - John Cotton, Farmington; Robert James, Warren
1986 - William Robinson, Detroit; Irving Soderland, Norway
1987 - Jack Streidl, Plainwell; Wayne Hellenga, Decatur
1988 - Jack Johnson, Dearborn; Alan Williams, North Adams
1989 - Walter Bazylewicz, Berkley; Dennis Kiley, Jackson
1990 - Webster Morrison, Pickford; Herbert Quade, Benton Harbor
1991 - Clifford Buckmaster, Petoskey; Donald Domke, Northville
1992 - William Maskill, Kalamazoo; Thomas G. McShannock, Muskegon
1993 - Roy A. Allen Jr., Detroit; John Duncan, Cedarville
1994 - Kermit Ambrose, Royal Oak
1995 - Bob Perry, Lowell
1996 - Charles H. Jones, Royal Oak
1997 - Michael A. Foster, Richland; Robert G. Grimes, Battle Creek
1998 - Lofton C. Greene, River Rouge; Joseph J. Todey, Essexville
1999 - Bernie Larson, Battle Creek
2000 - Blake Hagman, Kalamazoo; Jerry Cvengros, Escanaba
2001 - Norm Johnson, Bangor; George Lovich, Canton
2002 - John Fundukian, Novi
2003 - Ken Semelsberger, Port Huron
2004 - Marco Marcet, Frankenmuth
2005 - Jim Feldkamp, Troy
2006 - Dan McShannock, Midland; Dail Prucka, Monroe
2007 - Keith Eldred, Williamston; Tom Hickman, Spring Lake
2008 - Jamie Gent, Haslett; William Newkirk, Sanford-Meridian
2009 - Paul Ellinger, Cheboygan
2010 - Rudy Godefroidt, Hemlock; Mike Boyd, Waterford
2011 - Eric C. Federico, Trenton
2012 - Bill Mick, Midland
2013 - Jim Gilmore, Tecumseh; Dave Hutton, Grandville
2014 - Dan Flynn, Escanaba
2015 – Hugh Matson, Saginaw
PHOTO: From left, Gina Mazzolini and Gary Hice receive Forsythe Awards on March 26 from Benton Harbor athletic director Fred Smith.
Lowell’s Deanne Crowley, Owosso’s Dallas Lintner and Fenton’s Mitch Smelis all have provided more than two decades of service to Michigan educational athletics, Crowley as a highly-regarded coach and administrator, Lintner also as an administrator and educational leader and Smelis as an athletic trainer and prominent voice in the sports medicine community especially in its service to school sports.
To recognize their significant and continued contributions to educational athletics, Crowley, Lintner and Smelis have been named recipients of the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s Allen W. Bush Award for 2022.
Al Bush served as executive director of the MHSAA for 10 years. The award honors individuals for past and continuing service to school athletics as a coach, administrator, official, trainer, doctor or member of the media. The award was developed to bring recognition to people who are giving and serving without a lot of attention. This is the 31st year of the award, with selections made by the MHSAA's Representative Council.
Crowley began her coaching career at Lake Odessa Lakewood in 1987 with subvarsity basketball, and she took over Lowell’s girls varsity program in 2000 after previously beginning her teaching career there in 1998. She remained the Red Arrows’ coach through 2006, that season leading her team to the Class A Semifinals – and she also was named Class A Coach of Year in 2004 by The Associated Press. Crowley became an assistant principal at Lowell in 2010 and the high school’s athletic director in 2013.
She earned her certified athletic administrator designation from the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA) in 2018 and was named Region 4 Athletic Director of the Year this past school year by the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (MIAAA). Previously, she was named Athletic Director of the Year by the Michigan Wrestling Association for the 2018-19 school year and by the West Michigan Officials Association in 2021. Crowley also is a significant contributor to Lowell’s nationally-recognized Pink Arrow Pride program that raises funds annually for cancer awareness, education and support within the Lowell community; she organizes and coordinates the education program, which among other goals provides scholarships for Lowell graduates pursuing careers in medicine. She also was a co-founder in 2000 of the Lady Arrows Varsity Club, which provides leadership training for female student-athletes who have earned a varsity letter.
Crowley graduated from Lakewood High School in 1983 and earned her bachelor’s degree in secondary education from Western Michigan University in 1997 and a master’s in educational administration from Michigan State University in 2002.
“I have known Dee for over 20 years, and she has always been incredibly dedicated to finding opportunities for all students, especially female student-athletes,” Uyl said. “Her years as a coach and administrator have shown a solid record of finding ways for kids to compete.”
Lintner is returning to Owosso High School as principal this fall after finishing the second half of 2021-22 as interim athletic director at Fenton High School. He first joined the staff at Owosso as a teacher in 2001-02, went to Linden as athletic director for two years beginning with fall of 2008, then returned to Owosso as athletic director and assistant principal from 2010 through the 2020-21 school year. He served as principal at Owosso Lincoln High School last school year until leaving for Fenton.
Education has been a focus of Lintner’s work, and he received a doctorate in educational leadership from University of Michigan-Flint in 2017. He has a certified master athletic administrator designation and has served as a leadership training instructor for the NIAAA since 2015. He also has served as a facilitator for the Love and Logic parenting program.
Lintner has been an active participant with the MIAAA as well, serving as its constitution committee chairperson since 2009. He was a member of the executive board from 2015-20, including serving as president during the 2018-19 school year. As athletic director, he was a frequent host of MHSAA postseason events and a contributor to various committees, and he previously was an MHSAA registered official for track & field and coach in multiple sports. Prior to earning his doctorate, Lintner graduated from Vassar High School in 1995, then earned a bachelor's degree in education from Saginaw Valley State University in 2000 and a master’s in athletic administration from Central Michigan University in 2005.
“Dallas has provided years of solid leadership in Owosso,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “This consistent approach has led to numerous improvements, and during his tenure as athletic director his school won its first state championship, with the softball program (in 2021).”
Smelis has served as an athletic trainer for 25 years with Fenton Area Public Schools, for the last decade through NovaCare Rehabilitation. He was named High School Athletic Trainer of the Year by the Michigan Athletic Trainers’ Society (MATS) in 2017 and serves as co-chairperson of its Secondary School Committee.
Also a member of the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) and Great Lakes Athletic Trainers Association (GLATA), Smelis has become a key connection between the training community and MHSAA. He has contributed as a MATS liaison on multiple MHSAA sport committees, and serves on the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee and as an instructor for the MHSAA’s Coaches Advancement Program (CAP). He also has presented at the MIAAA’s annual and summer conferences on a variety of physical health and safety and mental health topics.
Smelis graduated from Imlay City High School in 1991 and earned a bachelor’s degree in sports medicine from Central Michigan University in 1997. He is a certified American Heart Association instructor for CPR, first aid and basic life support and has served as lead instructor in CPR and first aid for Fenton’s coaches and staff.
“Mitch has been incredibly dedicated to keeping kids safe while playing all sports,” Uyl said. “He also has been responsible for further strengthening the good relationship between the MHSAA and Michigan Athletic Trainers’ Society, and he continues to provide valuable insight as part of our coaches education efforts.”