Mike Cleary, who has spent 46 years as the only executive director of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics, announced he will step down from his role after the 2011 NACDA convention in June. Cleary, who will continue to serve as director emeritus for the next three years, will be succeeded by current Deputy Executive Director Bob Vecchione.
Cleary, who was named to the post in 1965, has led the association longer than any other current Division I conference commissioner, coaches association executive director or national association leader. In addition, Cleary has had the opportunity to work with all five NCAA presidents (Walter Byers, Dick Schultz, Cedric Dempsey, Myles Brand and Mark Emmert).
“I can’t believe this will be my 46th convention in June,” Cleary said. “I’ve had great presidents who have given our association the leadership we have needed to reach the heights that we have attained.”
Cleary will continue to serve as the president for the John McLendon Minority Scholarship Foundation and the Northeastern Ohio Chapter of the National Football Foundation.
“Mike has been the association’s leader since its inception and, although we are sorry to hear of his retirement, we are happy that he will continue to serve as director emeritus for the next three years,” said NACDA President Dave Roach, director of athletics at Colgate University. “He is synonymous with NACDA and has been the guiding force behind the development of our profession as athletics administrators.
“He has been a mentor and friend to so many ADs for the last 45 years, and his impact will be felt forever. We owe him more than words can ever express. On behalf of the entire membership, we thank him for his continued leadership over the years, and wish him nothing but the best in the future.”
Over the course of NACDA’s 45-year history, Cleary has overseen the creation of the association’s convention and NACDA’s 11 affiliate associations. He also helped NACDA develop the Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup, which has come to be known as the gold-standard recognition for broad-based success in intercollegiate athletics.
As president of the McLendon Minority Scholarship Foundation, Cleary has been responsible for raising more than $2 million to date. Annually, the program awards five postgraduate scholarships to minority senior-level students who are planning to pursue a graduate degree in athletics administration. In addition, the Foundation also created the John McLendon Minority Athletics Administrators Hall of Fame in 2007 to honor minority athletics administrators who have made an impact on the profession.
While serving as NACDA’s executive director, Cleary simultaneously held the posts of commissioner of the Ohio Athletic Conference from 1973 to 1981 and administrator of the Division 1A Athletic Directors’ Association from 1986 to 1992.
Prior to NACDA, Cleary served as the director of championship events for the NCAA, and also held the same position with the NAIA. Before entering the field of intercollegiate athletics, Cleary served as the general manager of the Cleveland Pipers in the old American Basketball League under owner George Steinbrenner. While with the Pipers, Cleary hired John McLendon, the first black coach to head an American professional sports team. He also served as general manager of the Kansas City Steers of Abe Saperstein’s ABL and Midwest scout for the New York Knicks.
A behind-the-scenes person in the field of athletics, Cleary has served on committees with the USOC; the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority (NJSEA); and the National Football Foundation (NFF) and Hall of Fame, among others. In 1999, Cleary was named to the board of directors of the NFF and, in 1995, he received the award for the Outstanding Contribution to Amateur Football from the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame.
He was awarded an honorary doctorate from the United States Sports Academy and in 2009 was inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame.