Butler College of Education alumnus Bobby Cox B.S.’79, M.S. ’87 (pictured left) became the eighth commissioner of the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) on Feb. 1.
The non-profit IHSAA regulates interschool athletics and sanctions annual tournaments involving more than 160,000 student athletes in 20 sports. Cox was an assistant commissioner from 2000 to present, following 21 years as a teacher, coach and athletic administrator in the Carmel Clay Schools. An advisor to the Indiana State Medical Association’s Commission on Sports Medicine, he has served on the National Federation of State High School Association’s committees for football rules and coaches’ education.
One of his first duties as commissioner will be guiding a new two-year process of reclassifying IHSAA member schools for team sport tournaments. In April, the association will announce new sectional alignments for baseball, basketball, football, soccer, softball and volleyball. The news is “highly anticipated” by high school sports fans, he said.
Now Commissioner Emeritus, Ress was principal of Martinsville High School from 1986 to 1995, when he joined the IHSAA as an assistant commissioner.
Listing IHSAA accomplishments that took place during his tenure, Ress mentioned the group’s adoption of digital and web technology. “When I was hired, the IHSAA administrators did not have access to computers,” he said. Today, it uses technology in many operations, including a web site, video streaming of events and a state-wide television network.
He is also proud of IHSAA’s efforts be more transparent about its operations while maintaining the privacy of individuals, and its embrace of corporate sponsorships. With sponsorship revenue, the IHSAA has avoided the need to charge memberships dues, he said. The IHSAA actually returns approximately $2.5 million in tournament receipts to member schools annually, according to Ress.
Both he and Cox said their Butler days prepared them well for their careers.
“I look back on my professors, classmates and teammates at Butler as a reservoir of both knowledge and support,” said Cox, who competed in track and cross county. “Those relationships greatly aided me in my early days of teaching and coaching and continue to be valued as I continue in my current work.”
Butler’s small, close-knit campus was important to Ress. “I got to know my professors as individuals,” said Ress, whose wife, Linda, received her M.S. in education at Butler in 1982. Likewise, they got to know a little more about their students than their peers in large universities.
“One must learn through experience how to relate and interact with people and how to handle successes and failures. I have often spoken about athletics being the other half of education because that is an arena where one can learn many of those life lessons plus the importance of teamwork; to never give up; and to develop the social graces to be successful.”
Cox and Ress don’t have to look far to find fellow Bulldogs. Two of the current four IHSAA assistant commissioners also hold education degrees from Butler: Theresia Wynns M.S. ’74 (left) and Robert Faulkens EPPSP ’94, M.S. ’95 (right).
Wynns is responsible for girls’ basketball, boys’ and girls’ soccer, and boys’ and girls’ tennis and also oversees the IHSAA’s officials department. Prior to joining IHSAA in 1997, she was a teacher and administrator in the Indianapolis Public Schools and Warren Township Schools (Indianapolis) for 26 years.
Faulkens is the IHSAA’s newest assistant commissioner, being appointed in January after two years on its board of directors. He administers the sports of football, wrestling, track and field, and boys’ golf. Faulkens spent 23 years in high school education, including the last four as principal at Crispus Attucks Middle/High School, Indianapolis.