E.A. Sports Today

Savarese stepping down

AHSAA executive director Steve Savarese announces plans to retire after 15 years at the helm of the state’s high school sports governing body in July

By East Alabama Sports Today

MONTGOMERY – Alabama High School Athletic Association Executive Director Steve Savarese has spent 47 years as an educator and 15 years at the helm of the state’s governing body for high school sports, but says the time has come to move on.


Savarese, the fourth full-time executive director in the 100-year history of the AHSAA, told the Central Board of Control Wednesday he plans to step down from the position he has held for the last 15 years effective July 1.

He did agree to remain in the position at the pleasure of the CBOC until his replacement has been hired and has had ample time to adjust to the position. His plans in retirement call for spending time with his family.

Savarese followed Cliff Harper (1948-66), Herman L. “Bubba” Scott (1966-91) and Dan Washburn (1991-2007) at the helm of the organization. All three became leaders in the National Federation of High School Associations during their tenures and Savarese has played a key role nationally as well. 

He currently serves on the NFHS Board of Directors, was selected as the president-elect of that board for the upcoming 2021-22 school year and also is currently serving as the chairman of the NFHS Network Board of Directors.

“You know when it’s time,” Savarese said, choking up several times during his remarks. “When you get to be 68 like me, about to be 69 in October, you just know when it’s time, and it just was time.

“Was there a certain thing? No. But I will tell you this, my son asked me how many more birthdays are you going to miss, Dad? How many more celebrations are you going to miss with the kids, Dad? I love them more than anything in the world, so Dad’s coming home. Momma’s coming home.”

Central Board President Van Phillips admits his board faces a “very daunting task” ahead. It has formed a seven-member search committee to vet applicants and recommend the candidates to the board to be interviewed.

“We think Steve Savarese is the best at his position in the nation,” Phillips said. “But we will do our due diligence to find his replacement … He is leaving big shoes to fill but all I can ask for of him is not to be gone too long and not to go too far away. We will always want and need his advice as we move forward.”

Savarese’s tenure has been highlighted by many major achievements including the introduction of the AHSAA’s widely acclaimed Revenue Share initiative that has provided more than $16 million back to the member schools since 2010 and is expected to pay out more than $1.5 million for the 2020-21 school year despite the challenges of the COVID 19 pandemic. His business acumen has put the AHSAA in its best financial shape in history.

He moved the Super 7 Football Championships to a rotating schedule between the University of Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium and Auburn University’s Jordan-Hare Stadium by bringing the cities of Tuscaloosa/Northport and Auburn/Opelika together. Beginning next fall, Birmingham’s soon-to-be-completed Progressive Stadium will join the rotation.

He also secured outstanding venues for all AHSAA sports championships – including the softball finals at Oxford’s Choccolocco Park for the next two years – providing most positive life-long memories for more-than 156,000 student-athletes, 414 high schools, 15,000 coaches and administrators and their communities.

“I want to express just how much we admire Steve Savarese and the work he has done protecting this association, constitution and by-laws always and standing tall for what is right,” Phillips said. “His positive impact has changed the lives for so many student-athletes and adults alike.”

Through his guidance, the AHSAA upgraded its technology through components such as C2C and DragonFly. The online eligibility component is one of the most advanced in the nation. His vision led the AHSAA to be the first state association to join the NFHS Network.

More than 300 member schools have joined the NFHS Network School Broadcast Program. More than 10,000 events will be livestreamed this school year by AHSAA member schools and its student broadcasters – and is generating much-needed revenue back to the member schools in the process.

Through his leadership, the AHSAA expanded its Medical Advisory Board and has become a leader in areas such as sportsmanship, health and safety and officiating. Alabama’s contact limitation guidelines for football has been a model for other state associations as well as the AHSAA’s pitch count limitations for baseball.

“I’ve had an awesome time, teaching, coaching, serving as an administrator, and most humbly serving as Executive Director of the AHSAA,” Savarese said. “To follow icons such as Cliff Harper, Bubba Scott and Dan Washburn has been the greatest honor of my life.

“Professionally, I would not change a thing regarding my career. I genuinely feel as if I’ve never worked a day in my life. I’ve tried to approach each day knowing that nothing worthwhile was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”

“When I was hired, Bubba Scott and Dan Washburn sat me down and explained how important it was to consistently uphold the bylaws of our member schools. I hope I have lived up to their expectations and will leave this job never wavering from my duty or responsibility.”

The AHSAA provided material for this report.

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