Donnie Nelson named NIAA executive director

NIAA names Donnie Nelson executive director

The Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association on Thursday appointed Donnie Nelson as its fifth executive director.

Nelson had served as the interim executive director since Bart Thompson retired in August. He was approved as Thompson’s permanent replacement by the NIAA Board of Directors in a special meeting at the Silver Legacy hotel in Reno.

Nelson will officially take over the position July 1. He has been with the NIAA since 1998 and was an assistant director before being named interim executive director.

“It’s humbling, to be sure, to think about not necessarily being the leader of the NIAA because it’s a collective group, but to be the one to facilitate (the NIAA’s) efforts and direct 120 member schools,” Nelson said. “I’ve been in the office for 24 years and have seen the association grow from 82 to 120 schools, seen how the state of Nevada has changed with professional organizations that have moved into the state and how we can keep high school athletics and activities relevant in our state.”

Nelson said it’s an exciting time for the NIAA, especially because there are no longer COVID-19 restrictions. But he also understands there are challenges.

He said the NIAA plans to increase its office staff and become more technologically advanced, but those will take time. The most immediate task, Nelson said, is to get communities back together.

“We lost some things the past couple years, for obvious reasons,” Nelson said. “We need to center on student-athletes to show them we care, not just about their physical care but their mental health as well, and it’s going to take an entire effort from our membership.”

Nelson was chosen over three other finalists — Clark County School District athletic director Tim Jackson, Lowry High principal Ray Parks and Damonte Ranch High athletic director Jeff Thiede.

Nelson thanked his fellow finalists for applying for the role and their commitment to high school sports.

“The three other finalists were all outstanding in their own right,” Nelson said. “I look forward to looking through their materials and seeing their thoughts on how we can get better. It’s a small state. We all know each other. We all respect each other, and we can all learn from each other.”

Contact Jason Orts at Follow @SportsWithOrts on Twitter.