Inglis Finds Next Home at MHSAA

December 4, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

The theme chosen by Portage Northern’s student section for its hockey Regional Final in 1989 was “Kings of the Ice,” and as such they wore Burger King crowns as a sign of the royalty their classmates soon would earn.  

Just before team captain Cody Inglis accepted the championship trophy, he skated to his friends and was anointed as well as one placed a crown upon his head.

Golden cardboard and all, Inglis received his team’s prize and circled the ice.

Inglis returned home that night eager to discuss the highlights with his dad Bill, a former professional player and one-time coach of the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres. But there was only one thing Bill had to say – and it’s a principle that’s continued to guide Cody throughout his career in high school athletics.

“I was really looking for his input and congratulations, and he looked at me and said very succinctly, ‘There’s a right way and a wrong way to do things. And you chose the wrong way,’” Inglis remembered this week. “At the time, I couldn’t see it with the perspective of a 17-year-old kid. But now I look back on it as the most valuable life lesson I’ve ever gotten.

“I knew he was proud of me. But the lesson he was trying to impart on me was doing things the right way is much more important than winning.”

Inglis has been doing things the right way for two decades while serving first at Suttons Bay and then Traverse City Central High School. He’ll bring a winning list of achievements and wealth of knowledge when he joins the Michigan High School Athletic Association staff as an assistant director in January.   

Inglis, 42, has served as athletic director and assistant principal at Traverse City Central since February 2008, taking over after 11 years as athletic director at Suttons Bay. He also has served as secretary for both the Big North and Northwest Conferences and for 13 years as the northern Lower Peninsula representative of 125 athletic directors for the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association.

Inglis will serve as the MHSAA’s director of ice hockey, girls and boys cross country, girls and boys golf, and girls and boys bowling. In addition, he will assist in the direction of girls and boys skiing and girls and boys track and field, and be in charge of the junior high and middle school committee. Inglis also will assist with the administration of the MHSAA’s Coaches Advancement Program and provide his expertise as an instructor.

“We had more than 100 candidates, including a half dozen of the finest ADs in America – not just Michigan. They couldn’t be any better,” MHSAA Executive Director John E. “Jack” Roberts said. “Cody’s selection was based in part on his being just a slightly better fit to the job description we had in mind.

“He’s had to do some tough things as an administrator. But he’s got a personality that causes people to rally around him.”

On the move

Inglis’ dad, Bill, spent 50 years in pro hockey, most of his final 20 as general manager of the Kalamazoo K-Wings, and Cody grew up in lockerrooms around future pros like Ron Hextall, Dirk Graham and Marty Turco. When the Toledo Goaldiggers won the IHL’s Turner Cup when Cody was in sixth grade, he got to carry the cup through downtown. The family moved 17 times, and prior to the stop in Kalamazoo, Cody had never lived anywhere longer than 2½ years.

Inglis graduated from Portage Northern High School in 1989 and went on to Hope College, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education and his teaching certification. He also was the captain of Hope’s 1992 men’s cross country team and captain of the men’s track & field team in both 1992 and 1993, and earned academic All-America honors for cross country.

Given his ties to pro hockey, Inglis might have had an opportunity to follow his dad. But it wasn’t for him. After graduating from Hope, Inglis enrolled at Western Michigan University to study sports management. He went to class for one day and withdrew – his heart just wasn’t into it.

Instead, Inglis hooked up with his Portage Northern cross country coach Bill Fries and found what he did want to do – coach, and in doing so, teach athletics.

The rest is northern Lower Peninsula history.

Inglis hooked on at Suttons Bay as a 23-year physical education teacher and head cross country and track & field coach, and two years later took over the athletic department.

“I was thrown into the fire right away, but I had a desire to be in sports somehow and coaching was a passion of mine,” Inglis said. “It was kinda sink or swim. I realized the craziness and hecticness of it, but it was something I embraced. I was lucky to have the opportunity to do it at Suttons Bay, to grow there and have people who were willing to let me make some mistakes, learn from my mistakes and become a better administrator.”

Inglis has supervised a group of more than 100 coaches while at Traverse City Central, plus a group of more than 20 teachers and staff as part of his assistant principal duties.

He’s managed more than 100 MHSAA Tournaments, including Ski Finals, Football Semifinals and Hockey Quarterfinals, and a variety of lower tournament levels for hockey, wrestling, track and field, cross country, basketball and golf.

His programs have achieved plentiful success under his leadership. Traverse City Central won the Big North Conference all-sport award every year from 2008-12 and earned six MHSAA Finals team championships during his tenure. The varsity programs have produced 34 academic all-state awards over the past three school years – including 14 in 2012-13 – and 62 percent of the student body was involved in athletics last school year.

While at Suttons Bay, Inglis led an athletic program that won the Northwest Conference sportsmanship trophy nine times and earned two MHSAA Finals championships. He also redeveloped athletic boosters programs, oversaw construction projects and was instrumental in the rewriting of athletic policies at both schools. 

He was recognized in the spring with the MHSAA’s Allen W. Bush Award, which recognizes those who serve in high school athletics but do not always receive attention for their contributions.

Mentor to follow

Inglis was instrumental in the creation and later served as an assistant coach for the Traverse City Bay Reps ice hockey team, a co-operative headed by Traverse City St. Francis High School that’s now been in existence 15 seasons. He also was named Division 4 Girls Cross Country Coach of the Year in 2002 by the Michigan Interscholastic Track Coaches Association after leading his team to a runner-up finish at the MHSAA Finals. 

Inglis coached a string of girls cross country teams that made the top 10 at MHSAA Finals five straight seasons, plus 25 all-state athletes in cross country and track and field including three individual MHSAA champions.

He has been a member of seven MHSAA sport committees, including for ice hockey. He’s been a frequent presenter at the MIAAA’s annual conferences, covering topics including fundraising, budgeting, organizing successful tournaments, balancing multiple roles and responsibilities, leadership and technology. He’s also taught MIAAA Leadership Training Courses.

Of little surprise, Inglis has been greatly impacted by growing up following his dad. While mother Jeris was the rock of the family, Bill was Cody’s idol and made a significant impact on the manager Inglis has become.

“My dad was so good at the way he treated people. I just saw how he treated them, whether it was the Zamboni drive or an assistant or secretary, he treated them with so much respect,” Inglis said. “That’s the part I’ve really taken from him, how he treated people and the relationships he made. How you treat people in athletics is so key; they’ll treat you the same way back, I’ve found most of the time.”

Inglis received minor degrees at Hope in business administration and communications, and has completed a number of courses toward a master’s in athletic administration from Ohio University.

He is married to Carrie (Ham) Inglis, an MHSAA Finals cross country individual champion for Big Rapids in 1987. They have three sons.  

PHOTO: (Top) Traverse City Central athletic director Cody Inglis converses with a member of his staff Tuesday. (Middle) Inglis shares a laugh with an official before Tuesday's girls basketball games. (Photos courtesy of Rick Sack.)

2023 Forsythe Award Celebrates Leinaar's 40 Years Dedicated to School Sports

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

March 8, 2023

Few people in Michigan have had a longer-lasting influence on the rules and policies of educational athletics than Frankfort’s Karen Leinaar, who has served in several roles locally, statewide and nationally over more than 40 years contributing to the school sports community.

Thank you, Bill Baker.

The longtime teacher, coach, principal and superintendent during a career that stretched across multiple schools – including Leinaar’s growing up, Delton Kellogg – made an impression on the standout multi-sport athlete before she graduated from high school in 1977. Baker’s philosophy and work led Leinaar to study education at Michigan State University and then brought her back as Delton’s athletic director to begin four decades of making the same impact on children in her hometown and eventually in hometowns all over Michigan and beyond.

Baker died in 2009, but not before continuing to mentor Leinaar through many good times and tough ones.

“The man had two daughters that I grew up with, his wife was a teacher, and he demonstrated to all of us – he never missed an event – that we were important to him. That even though we weren’t his kids, we were his kids and athletics was a way to help kids become better people – and for some kids it was the only thing that they had positive in their life,” Leinaar said. “And he made it known just to that individual kid how important their participation was and their involvement, and how that helped them become the person that they were.

“That to me was such an example of how to help people be good people, that I just took that role on.”

It’s a role in which she continues to serve. Leinaar began her career as an athletic administrator in 1982, and as the interim athletic director currently at Frankfort High School is serving her fifth district in that position. Since June 2019, she also has served as executive director of the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (MIAAA), the professional organization for school sports administrators in the state with a membership of nearly 700.

Leinaar accepts the MHSAA's Women In Sports Leadership Award in 1998. To recognize that longtime and continuing impact, Leinaar has been named the 2023 honoree for the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s Charles E. Forsythe Award.

The annual award is in its 46th 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 contributions to the interscholastic athletics community.

Leinaar also served 22 years on the MHSAA’s Representative Council and a four-year term from 2009-13 on the Board of Directors for the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), and just last week was named to the 2023 class of the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA) Hall of Fame.

“It is impossible even to estimate the number of students, coaches, administrators and others who have been affected by the work Karen Leinaar has done to make school sports the best they can be – not only in her communities, but across Michigan and throughout the country,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “There are few who have equaled her dedication and her support and promotion of the ideals of school-based sports. She has always placed an emphasis on being in the room, on the field or at the arena, actively participating in her leadership roles, and our programs are better for it.”

Leinaar first served as athletic director at Delton Kellogg for nearly 17 years, from March 1982 through October 1998. She spent three years at Gaylord, then 8½ at Benzie Central before taking over at Bear Lake in November 2010 and spending the next decade organizing athletic programs for students in grades 5-12 before retiring in January 2021. She came out of retirement to return to the athletic director’s chair this past fall as interim AD at Frankfort. She has completed nearly four years as MIAAA executive director, moving into that position after previously serving nine years as an assistant to the executive.

Leinaar began her service on the Representative Council in Fall 1999 and completed her last term as a statewide at-large representative at the Fall 2021 meeting.

She has been honored several times for her contributions. She received the MHSAA’s Women In Sports Leadership Award in 1998, a Citation from the NFHS in 2000, and she was named MIAAA Athletic Director of the Year in 2001. She received an MHSAA’s Allen W. Bush Award in 2014 – recognition given for work done generally behind the scenes and with little attention.

“This is the top of the mountain, per se. This one does mean so much,” Leinaar said of the Forsythe Award. “The names that are associated with this over the years, I never thought I’d be put in that group.”

Leinaar remains a continuous source of support at a multitude of MHSAA championship events, and during her time on Council was one of the most frequent representatives handing out trophies and medals to champions and runners-up at Finals events. She began while athletic director at Delton Kellogg hosting the MHSAA Volleyball Finals in Class B and Class C and continues to assist with those championships now played at Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek.

She also hosted Competitive Cheer Finals at Delton Kellogg in 1996 and 1997, Ski Finals while at Gaylord, and many more championship events across the Lower Peninsula. She continues to assist at the MHSAA’s Lower Peninsula Cross Country and Track & Field Finals.

After attending Delton Kellogg High School, Leinaar earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education, health and recreation, with a minor in driver education, from MSU in 1982. She completed a master’s in athletic administration from Western Michigan University in 1994.

Leinaar has been a member for 40 years of both the MIAAA and NIAAA, and has served as chairperson of the MIAAA Annual Conference and awards chairperson for both the state and national bodies. She’s also served as chairperson of the MIAAA’s Exemplary Athletic Program.

Past recipients of the Charles E. Forsythe Award 

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
2016 - Gary Hice, Petoskey; Gina Mazzolini, Lansing
2017 - Chuck Nurek, Rochester Hills
2018 - Gary Ellis, Allegan
2019 - Jim Derocher, Negaunee; Fredrick J. Smith, Stevensville
2020 - Michael Garvey, Lawton
2021 - Leroy Hackley Jr., Byron Center; Patti Tibaldi, Traverse City
2022 - Bruce Horsch, Houghton

PHOTOS (Top) Karen Leinaar, left, awards the 2022 Division 4 volleyball finalist trophy to Indian River Inland Lakes coach Nicole Moore. (Middle) Leinaar accepts the MHSAA's Women In Sports Leadership Award in 1998.