NIAA Board of Control begins search for new executive director

Donnie Nelson

Donnie Nelson

At the beginning of December 2023, Donnie Nelson announced he was stepping down as the executive director the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association on June 1. 

The NIAA is the governing body of high school sports in Nevada. 

The NIAA Board of Control took the next step and officially opened the search for a new director that will be nationwide.

The executive director is the Chief Administrative Officer of the NIAA. NAC 385B.150.

The position is responsible for the overall leadership of the NIAA. 

The executive director attends to all official duties as outlined in the Articles of Incorporation, Nevada Revised Statutes and Nevada Administrative Code.

Including, supervising the fiscal strength and integrity of the organization, managing and supervising the administrative and professional staff, and providing leadership to all member schools and the educational community in the State of Nevada on behalf of interscholastic activities.

Nelson, who has worked for the NIAA for 26 years, took the role of executive director in April 2022.

Previously, he was interim executive director, starting in August 2021 after Bart Thompson retired.

“Serving as the executive director for these three years — and previously as the assistant director for 23 years — has been an honor and a privilege.” Nelson said. “I grew up in a high school gym (with my parents working in secondary education), and wanted to be a high school teacher, coach and athletic director. I just so happened to be in the right place at the right time to serve in the state athletic association’s office. I still wonder what it would have been like to be in the building”?

Nelson said he believes the new director will get the support needed to help the NIIA in the future. 

He added he’s looking forward to the future out of the NIAA.

“I believe the new director will have the opportunities and get the support necessary to be successful in whatever ways he/she and the board will want to measure success,” Nelson said. “The position does require, however, being available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all 12 months. I’m looking forward to a new adventure and thus being able to support my wife and our two daughters more so with their endeavors.”

Trying to please everyone in the state from the metro area of Las Vegas and Reno to the Carson City, Minden, Elko and the much smaller rural areas can be tough and Nelson added he tried to do that to the best of his abilities. 

“Our great state is different in size and scope,” he said. “I always did my very best to represent the values, beliefs and morals of both our large and small enrollment schools, our metropolitan and rural areas, and our East — Northwest — South differences. I will truly miss working with so many outstanding administrators, athletic directors, secretaries, coaches and officials ... people who really had the best interests of our student-athletes at heart.”

There will be plenty of challenges ahead for the new director and the NIAA as a whole. Funding and facilities are the biggest issue. 

The NIAA was not able to secure a venue in southern Nevada for the State Wrestling Championships, which will be held in Bullhead City, Ariz., on the border with Laughlin.

They were hoping to play the southern Nevada flag football championships at the Las Vegas Raiders’ practice facility in Henderson, but that facility is being used for the Super Bowl. 

The state basketball tournament is starting earlier in the week and games will be played at the Virginia Street Gym, due to the UNLV/Nevada women playing on the Saturday of the state tournament.

NCAA bylaws states that the facility needs to be open for the college teams.

“I see the biggest challenges ahead being how to increase funding and office staffing, handling upcoming legislative interests, and being able to offer the best facilities possible on a sport-by-sport basis,” Nelson said.