Less than three weeks removed from retirement, Ohio High School Athletic Association interim Commissioner Dave Gray took time during the annual National Federation of State High School Associations National Conference at the Peppermill Resort in Reno to talk with the Dayton Daily News.
Gray, who was a member of the OHSAA’s Southwest District Athletic Board for 29 years and served two stints as an officer of the OHSAA Board of Directors, including vice president in 1992-93 and president in 2010-11, began his Commissioner duties June 20. He’s served as chair of the OHSAA’s Student Eligibility Appeals Panel for the past three years.
Gray spent 37 years in the Franklin Monroe Local School District before retiring in 2012. He and his wife, Susan, reside in Greenville and have three children and six grandchildren.
A graduate of Arcanum High School, Dave was a member of the school’s 1969 state championship basketball team and scored a small-school state tournament record 45 points in a semifinal win over Portsmouth Clay. He went on to earn NAIA All-America honors in basketball at Earlham College, where he earned a bachelor’s degree. He earned a master’s degree at the University of Dayton.
Q: I doubt a month ago you thought you’d be here in Reno representing the OHSAA?
A: On the plane out here, my wife and I were talking. I said “Do you realize just three weeks ago I was retired.” All of a sudden life has changed drastically. The time and energy it’s going to take…I’m looking forward to it. The first and foremost thing on my mind, though, is Dr. Ross. He’s a dear friend and we’ve been close for a long time. I wish him nothing but the best and everyone needs to keep him and his family in their thoughts and prayers. He’s got a tough road ahead.
Q: You said you were retired, happy…any hesitation taking the post?
A: When Steve Stirn called me I was taken aback. It came out of the clear blue. He just called and said “The state board has talked and we’d like you to become the interim director. You’re the unanimous choice.” I was like “Oh. OK.” I thought it over and talked it over with my wife and I said “Yeah. I’ll do that.” Basically … it was for two reasons…one, because of my relationship with Dan and two, I’ve been associated with the OHSAA for over 30 years in some capacity. It is a great organization. If I can do just a little bit to make it better so be it.
Q: Unanimous. It’s hard in this day and age to get people to vote unanimously.
A: Amen. At the all-district summer board meeting, which was the first thing I attended, I told them that I appreciated the vote of confidence and that as long as I’m there I’ll do my best to move the OHSAA forward.
Q: You’re not coming in to just occupy Dr. Ross’s seat. There are things you have to attend to. What are the most immediate concerns?
A: The regional meetings are the No. 1 concern. We’ll go around the state and just relay that these are the points we need to make, this is the info we need to have, these are the hot-button issues and these are the things we need to be doing. That’s why it was good to come out here. Competitive balance is a huge issue. We have a TV contract that is up and we need to take care of. We have the football final plans that we need to final. We also have five new board members. There’s a lot on the plate. We’re setting a priority list right now.
Q: Competitive balance takes effect in Ohio next year…talk of it here?
A: Yeah, it’s been mentioned here. It’s not just an Ohio problem. It’s countrywide. There are some proposals that I’ve looked at where states want private schools to form their own leagues. There are concerns all over about that.
Q: You don’t know how long you’re going to be in this spot. What do you want to accomplish?
A: I want to bring unity to the office. Two, I want to do what’s best for the student-athletes in the state of Ohio. I was fortunate enough my senior year in high school to win the state championship (boys basketball) and I guarantee you when we get together at a reunion that’s the first thing that’s brought up. And not just by the kids on the team. Everyone. It’s memories like that that you cherish and those have to be top drawer. Ohio’s always done a good job with that and I want to keep it there.
Q: You’ve been involved with the Southwest District Board and OHSAA for over 30 years…why so long? Why at all?
A: My love of sport. We didn’t have football at Arcanum High School when I was going through so I didn’t get to play that. And we didn’t have golf. But I played baseball, track and field and basketball. Way back when when one of the (SWDAB) positions opened up I was encouraged by some board members to run and everybody always thought at that time that you got paid. No, you don’t. You don’t get paid. It’s just another way to give back. It was my chance to do that for the sports I loved growing up.
Q: You’ve seen high school sports change quite a bit. What are some things that jump out or make you scratch your head now that didn’t 30 years ago?
A: The uniforms. That’s the first thing. My grandson, he’ll be a freshman at Arcanum, saw some of our old clips from the state championship in 1969 and first thing he says is “Grandpa your shorts are really short!” But speaking of the game of basketball, when I played dunking was a technical foul. And there was no 3-point shot. That’s really changed that game. The biggest change I’ve seen overall from when I started to now is the specialization of players. AAU, JO volleyball, summer baseball…I guess I understand it to a point, but we used to go from one sport to another sport to another sport and that’s not happening hardly anywhere now. People are specializing at a very early age. Huge change. Big thing is I think it can burn them out. Unless they have a real, real passion for the game.
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