Birmingham Groves’ Thomas Flynn, St. Joseph’s Kevin Guzzo and Bay City Western’s Michael Thayer are leaders of Michigan high school athletic programs who have put education and providing a positive student experience at the forefront of their work, while also becoming known among colleagues for their guidance and assistance to others striving to build the same foundations at their schools.
To recognize not only their work within their districts but their impacts on many other leaders in athletic administration, Flynn, Guzzo and Thayer have been named recipients of the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s Allen W. Bush Award for 2021.
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 30th year of the award, with selections made by the MHSAA's Representative Council.
Flynn has begun his 21st year as Birmingham Groves High School athletic director and 32nd overall at the school after beginning as a teacher. He has served as a host of MHSAA Tournament events in team and individual wrestling, girls and boys diving, girls and boys tennis, girls and boys basketball, baseball and softball, football, ice hockey, volleyball and girls and boys soccer. Flynn also has served on MHSAA Committees for wrestling, gymnastics, swimming & diving, tennis and various officials topics. He made Groves the home of all Metro Detroit Officials Association meetings and has received recognition for his service to the Oakland County Wrestling Officials Association.
Flynn has served as president, vice president, secretary and treasurer for the Oakland County Athletic Directors Association, and as the Region 11 representative for the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (MIAAA). A certified athletic trainer, he also is a longtime member of the National Athletic Trainers Association. The MIAAA named Flynn a Regional Athletic Director of the Year in 2012.
He graduated from Hillsdale High School in 1984, then earned a bachelor’s degree in biology with an emphasis on sports medicine from Grand Valley State University in 1990. He received a master’s in sports administration from Wayne State University. Flynn also has served on the Birmingham Bloomfield Community Coalition.
“Tom is a guy who is willing to do anything to assist the MHSAA. He’s hosted an Individual Wrestling District for 20-plus years, and that’s far-and-away the most difficult event to host – and he wants to do it every year,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “Tom is not afraid to do the dirty work, but he’s also not afraid to speak up, and that’s something I’ve always admired and appreciated about him.”
Guzzo has begun his 26th year with St. Joseph Public Schools and 18th as athletic director after previously serving as a coach and teacher. He earned his elite certification in the MHSAA Coaches Advancement Program in 2014 and has served as a CAP instructor and as an instructor for the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA) Leadership Training Institute. He also has served as chairperson representing the MIAAA on the Five State Exchange Committee. A frequent contributor as well to MHSAA Committees for sports, officials, classification and site selection, Guzzo recently contributed as part of the MHSAA Multi-Sport Task Force.
He received his certified athletic administrator (CAA) designation from the NIAAA in 2007 and was named an MIAAA Regional Athletic Director of the Year in 2015.
Guzzo graduated from Bessemer High School in 1991, then earned his bachelor’s degree in secondary mathematics at Western Michigan University in 1995 and master’s in math education from WMU in 2001. He has been active in the St. Joseph Lions Club, First Tee of Benton Harbor and the local Senior PGA Tournament Committee.
“Kevin has become a real leader in the southwestern corner of the state, and in many rooms has grown into a veteran voice of reason on many topics and issues,” Uyl said. “He’s taken what he’s learned over the years and incorporated it into his teaching as a Coaches Advancement Program instructor, and we are thrilled that we have many beginning coaches who one of their first mentors is a person like Kevin through CAP.”
Thayer has begun his 25th year as an athletic director and also serves as an assistant principal at Western. He served at Merrill Community Schools from 1995-2007 before arriving at Western with the start of the 2007-08 school year. He also is a frequent MHSAA Tournament host and has been a valued voice on a variety of MHSAA Committees, including the Multi-Sport Task Force and selection committee for the MHSAA-Farm Bureau Insurance Scholar-Athlete Awards. Additionally, he has served as the MIAAA’s historical records chairperson and as part of its public relations committee.
He is active with the NIAAA and Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals (MASSP) and National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP). He was selected for a Regional Athletic Director of the Year Award by the MIAAA in 2017, and also that year received the MIAAA’s George Lovich State Award of Merit.
Thayer graduated from Muskegon Orchard View High School in 1986, then earned his bachelor’s degree in business teaching from Central Michigan University in 1990 and master’s in educational administration/school principalship from CMU in 2003. He also is a CAP elite-certification graduate. He has served as a trustee for Thomas Township – with membership in the Michigan Township Association – and been active in the Shields Lions Club.
“Mike has been one of the true leaders of the Saginaw Valley League for a long time, and he’s really become the point guard of that league over the last five years,” Uyl said. “If ever someone should be defined for quiet, steady leadership, it’s Mike Thayer. It’s always about substance with Mike. He’s as reliable an athletic director as there is in the country.”
Elections were completed recently to fill positions on the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s legislative body, its Representative Council, with six members receiving re-election from their respective constituencies.
Five of the six re-elected members ran unopposed. Gobles athletic director Chris Miller was re-elected to continue representing Class C and D schools in the southwestern section of the Lower Peninsula, Camden-Frontier superintendent Chris Adams was re-elected to continue representing Class C and D schools in the southeastern section of the Lower Peninsula, and Marquette athletic director Alex Tiseo was re-elected to continue representing Class A and B schools in the Upper Peninsula.
Boyne City High School principal Adam Stefanski also ran unopposed and was re-elected to continue representing junior high/middle schools. Jay Alexander, executive director of athletics for Detroit Public Schools Community District, was re-elected to continue representing Detroit Public Schools. Mt. Morris athletic director Jeff Kline was re-elected from a pool of three candidates to continue in a statewide at-large position.
The Representative Council is the 19-member legislative body of the MHSAA. All but five members are elected by member schools. Four members are appointed by the Council to facilitate representation of females and minorities, and the 19th position is occupied by the Superintendent of Public Instruction or designee. The Council meets three times annually. Five members of the Council convene monthly during the school year to form the MHSAA’s Executive Committee, which reviews appeals of Handbook regulations by member schools.
Additional elections took place to select representatives to the Upper Peninsula Athletic Committee. Negaunee athletic director Paul Jacobson was elected to represent Class A and B schools, and Menominee athletic director Sam Larson was elected to represent Class C schools. Paradise Whitefish Township superintendent/principal/athletic director Vincent Gross was elected to represent Class D schools.
The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,500 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exists to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools which enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract more than 1.3 million spectators each year.