About Us

Executive Directors


Executive Director

Phil Rison, CMAA

Executive Director

Phil Rison became the NIAAA Executive Director in January 2023, previously serving over six years as Associate Executive Director. In Rison’s prior role, he worked with Mike Blackburn to enhance the NIAAA membership.

The six-plus years Blackburn and Rison worked together brought a membership increase of over 4,000 members, reaccreditation under Cognia, and an expansion of Leadership Training Courses from 44 to 56.

Rison currently oversees seven office staff employees, including two new Associate Executive Directors Rich Barton and Becky Moran.

One of Rison’s contributions to the NIAAA include the development of online courses. When he arrived at the NIAAA, online courses were not created yet. Now, the NIAAA offers 11 online courses, including all the courses required to attain the RAA, CAA, RIAA, and CIAA.

Rison has also overseen the addition of 900 level international courses. The NIAAA now offers five international courses and two international certifications – the Registered International Athletic Administrator (RIAA) and the Certified International Athletic Administrator (CIAA).

Rison’s involvement with the NIAAA has included the full span of his athletic administration career. He became a Certified Athletic Administrator (CAA) in 1998 and earned his Certified Master Athletic Administrator (CMAA) designation in 2005. He served as National Faculty Chair for Leadership Training Course (LTC) 508 and with the leadership of attorney Lee Green, formulated the faculty for all three legal courses.

He was appointed to the NIAAA Board of Directors representing Section 2 in 2009 and in 2013 Rison was selected as the 34th President of the NIAAA Board of Directors. As president, he appointed a Professional Development Task Force, which led to the first unified meeting of state coordinators for certification and Leadership Training Institute (LTI).


Executive Director

Dr. Mike Blackburn, CMAA

Mike Blackburn was named NIAAA Executive Director beginning July 2016, after serving 11 years as Associate Executive Director with Bruce Whitehead. Those years together brought collaboration on the upward movements of the NIAAA’s establishment of national headquarters, transition to the Professional Development Academy, establishing the Endowment Fund, and Cognia accreditation.

Blackburn has emphasized NIAAA’s foundational heritage while promoting initiatives to grow benefits and tools for members. Blackburn took an early interest in growing and promoting NIAAA membership among state athletic administrator associations. The NIAAA had been lingering around 5,000 members for 15 consecutive years before he arrived in 2005 as associate executive director. Two years into his executive directorship, membership had doubled the 2004 numbers, surpassed 13,500 in 2022, and had reached 14,000 by his January 2023 retirement. Dual member state associations were at 36, 15 states boasted 100% membership or higher, and 43 states received membership commendations.

Upon becoming a staff member, Mike worked with the Interscholastic Athletic Administration (IAA) journal that expanded to a 64-page magazine, doubling its original size. He contributed as a writer and editor working with the Publications Committee, staff, graphic artist, printer, and the membership in planning issue content, drafts, and delivery. .

The National Athletic Directors Conference has experienced new attendance records each year Blackburn was executive director, culminating in 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee with a record-best 2,700-plus attendees.

Other accomplishments in Blackburn's tenure include him spearheading the textbook NIAAA’s Guide to Interscholastic Athletic Administration, the budget grew to $2.5 million, office staff increased to 9 servant leaders while beginning office departmentalization, and and he was a part of four NIAAA Strategic Plan processes.

During his tenure, the investment in a Learning Management System in July of 2016 began the creation and delivery of online LTI courses. “NIAAA U” cohort studies were instituted as part of the Professional Development Academy, the LTI curriculum reached 56 courses, a by-law change provided the 4th at-large region, a new National Athletic Directors Conference agreement was orchestrated, and the PDA Leadership Team restructured.

Prior to joining the staff, Mike was a member of the NIAAA Publications Committee (1994-2005) with a term as chair, served the Conference Advisory Committee, as well as the 1st Strategic Plan committee. While set to join the NIAAA board representing Section 4 in December 2005, he accepted the opportunity to become NIAAA associate director in June 2005.


Executive Director

Bruce Whitehead, CMAA

Bruce Whitehead served as Executive Director of the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA) from 2005 to 2016. This 11½ years was preceded by working with the previous national director, Frank Kovaleski, in an administrative assistant capacity for 3½ years. Bruce retired in June 2016.

Whitehead led the NIAAA’s process as an organization apart from the NFHS and establishing its own offices in 2007 in Indianapolis. The NIAAA became an equal partner in conducting the annual National Athletic Directors Conference with the NFHS, and assumed control of the Interscholastic Athletic Administration (IAA) magazine.

During Whitehead’s tenure as executive director, the NIAAA Hall of Fame inducted its first class in 2009, attendance at the national conference reached a high of 1837 athletic administrators in 2008, NIAAA membership surpassed 10,000 and the Student Scholarship Program was established in 2006. During this time the NIAAA completed three strategic plans, was successful in gaining North Central Association CASI accreditation in 2011, reached a budget level of $1.8 million, and saw the LT program become the Leadership Training Institute that had grown to a 40 course curriculum. In addition, the Certification Program added the Registered Middle School Athletic Administrator (RMSAA) to its offering. In 2005, Dual Membership began, the first leadership training course was taught overseas, the board secretary became a Delegate Assembly elected position, and five committees moved from ad hoc to regular committees. In addition, the Frank Kovaleski Professional Development Award was instituted in 2007, the National Executive Directors Council formed as an NIAAA charter committee, and the NIAAA assisted Canada in their efforts to receive leadership training and create their own national association.

Before joining the NIAAA staff in 2001, Bruce had extensive background with the organization dating to its inception in 1977. He was among the group to take the initial CAA Exam in 1988, became chair of the NIAAA Resolutions Committee and was appointed the board secretary-treasurer from 1995 to 2001.


Executive Director

Frank Kovaleski, CAA

Frank Kovaleski was the first National Director of the NIAAA beginning that role in 2003. Frank began as an assistant director of the National Federation of High School Associations – NFHS in 1989 and served as Liaison to the NIAAA. He retired in January 2005 after a total of 16 years with the two associations.

Frank’s most significant contribution was the creation of the NIAAA Leadership Training Program (now Leadership Training Institute) in 1996. A single course developed into a 21 course offering during his tenure. In 2002 the NIAAA began offering a few LTI course via webcasting, and an arrangement was made with the University of Maine to provide online courses that would meet RAA and CAA certification requirements. Kovaleski orchestrated an agreement with Ohio University to offer a master’s degree in athletic administration including CAA Leadership Training course requirements embedded in the curriculum.

He also oversaw the expansion of the NIAAA Certification Program from the single Certified Athletic Administrator (CAA) to the 1999 offering of three levels. The two additions included the Registered Athletic Administrator (RAA) and Certified Master Athletic Administrator (CMAA). In addition, the NIAAA Certification Program became fully registered with the National Certification Commission.

During his tenure the NIAAA passed the 5,000 member mark, the Thomas E. Frederick Award was established, the NIAAA budget surpassed $500,000, and Kovaleski also was a part of the early stages of implementing the NIAAA Endowment Fund. He played a significant role in the success of the National Athletic Directors Conference held each December, helped direct the NIAAA’s 1st Strategic Plan, and the 25th Anniversary of the NIAAA was celebrated in 2002.

Kovaleski had been involved with the NIAAA for a number of years as an athletic administrator. He served terms on the Conference Advisory Committee, the NIAAA Resolutions Committee and the NIAAA Professional Development Committee.