JOHN E. "JACK" ROBERTS
John E. “Jack” Roberts served as Executive Director of the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) from 1986-2018. A 1970 graduate of Dartmouth College, Roberts taught English and coached football at high schools in Milwaukee and Denver before serving as an assistant director for the National Federation (NFHS) from 1973-80 and later as the Executive Vice President for the Fellowship of Christian
Athletes until joining the MHSAA.
The MHSAA enjoyed continued growth under Roberts’ guidance, particularly in the number of Michigan high school students participating in athletics and in the number of MHSAA-sponsored tournament sports available to them. The Association also made unprecedented advances in providing for the health and safety of athletes and promoting sportsmanship and the values of educational athletics and while working to
preserve competitive equity for its more than 1,500 member high school and junior high/middle schools.
Under Roberts’ leadership, overall participation in high school athletics in Michigan increased 10 percent, and the MHSAA added more than 200 schools in increasing its membership by more than 15 percent at the high school and junior high/ middle school levels combined. Most recently, in 2016, 6th-graders were allowed to compete for member schools for the first time as a push was made to increase junior high/middle
His tenure saw the addition of Competitive Cheer (1994), Girls and Boys Bowling (2004) and Girls and Boys Lacrosse (2005) to the MHSAA tournament sport lineup, the creation of separate wrestling tournament to determine champions by team format (1988) and 8-player football (2010, first playoffs 2011) as many small schools across the state began having trouble fielding 11-player teams because of enrollment and population decreases. Meanwhile, also under his leadership, the 11-player Football Playoffs expanded, doubling to 256 teams in 1999.
A number of key rules changes came under Roberts’ watch and direction, including the addition of opportunities for multiple schools to create cooperative teams, as well as the creation of down time and dead periods (2006) to ease pressure for year-round activity. A comprehensive sportsmanship package enacted in 1996 set a statewide tone for appropriate behavior and perspective that continues to make an
But the most significant and arguably lasting work influenced by Roberts came on topics not related to specific sports or competition. The MHSAA has led nationally in concussion care with its first programming in 2000 and return-to-play protocols enacted in 2010, and with concussion pilot testing, mandated reporting and insurance for those who suffer head injuries rolled out in 2015. A heat management policy and CPR requirements for coaches were introduced in 2013. The first program for coaches education was launched
in 1987 and evolved into the Coaches Advancement Program that is now required for all newly-hired varsity head coaches, and all coaches (head or assistant) at all high school levels (varsity and sub varsity) are now
required to take annual rules/health meetings.
Roberts helped create The Women in Sports Leadership Conference in 1989 and it remains the first, largest and longest-running program of its type in the country, regularly drawing upwards of 500 participants. The first of now annual statewide Athletic Director In-Service Programs was conducted in 1992 under Roberts, and the MHSAA’s website – MHSAA.com – was launched in 1997. That same year the first of the now-annual Sportsmanship Summits was held, and Michigan remains a national leader in student services thanks to a variety of programs that have been introduced over the last three decades.
In addition to his work specifically in Michigan, Roberts has carried significant influence at the national level. With his retirement, he also will be leaving the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Board of Directors. He led the creation of the NFHS Network for video productions in 2012 and is finishing an extended term as that board’s chairperson. He also has served on the board of directors of the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO).
Roberts served as board president for the Refugee Development Center in Lansing for nine years and this year is the chair of the board of trustees for the Capital Regional Community Foundation. He and his wife,
Peggy, reside in East Lansing, and his late father, John Roberts, served as the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) from 1957-86.
PREVIOUS JACK JOHNSON DISTINGUISHED SERVICE RECIPIENTS
1983 (†) Mrs. Helen Geovanes, Secretary for MHSAA
1984 (*) Al Bush, Executive Director of MHSAA
1985 (†) Hal Schram, Free Press Sports Reporter
1986 (†) Dick Kishpaugh, Historian of HS Athletics
1987 (†) Bruce Redman, President, Redman’s Awards
1988 (*) Walt Bazylewicz, Parochial Schools Service
1989 (†) Jack Moss, Sportswriter
1990 (*) Vern Norris, Executive Director of MHSAA
1991 (*) Richard Maher, WBA Ruster Foundation
1992 (*) Dennis Kiley, AD, Jackson Schools
1993 (*) Dr. Robert Murray, Trenton Public Schools
1994 (*) Warren McKenzie, Asst. Director of MHSAA
1995 (*) Lyndon L. Cronen, First Agency Inc.
1996 (*) Robert “Doc” Stevens, B C Sports Medicine
1997 (*) Judy Hagman, ‘Mrs. A.D.’ Role Model
1998 (*) Dennis Kniola, AD, Stephensville Lakeshore
1999 (*) Jerome Cvengros, Assoc. Director of MHSAA
2000 (*) Dave Dye, WBA Ruster Foundation
2001 (*) John Dudley, ‘Mr. Swimming Meet Manager’
2002 (*) Joe Mahan, Announcer, Timer & Scorer
2003 (*) Dr. Larry Ulmer, Kalamazoo Area Schools
2004 (*) Suzanne Mart in, Asst. Director of MHSAA
2005 (*) Russ Waldo, Visual Sports Network
2005 (*) Robert a Workema, Grand Traverse Resort
2006 (*) Georg e Lovich, Exec. Director of MIAAA
2007 (*) Jean Bell, Midland Dow
2008 (*) Steve Marsh, Midland Schools
2008 (*) Bill Mick, Midland Schools
2009 (*) Hugh Matson, Saginaw Heritage
2010 (*) Bernie Larson, B.C. Pennfield
2011 (*) Dan McShannock, Midland Dow
2012 (*) Meg Seng, Ann Arbor Greenhills
2013 (*) Jan Sander, Warren Woods
2014 (*) Ken Mohney, Mattawan
2015 (*) Lori Hyman, Livonia Stevenson
2016 (*) Gary Oyster, Lapeer
2017 (*) Wayne Welton, Chelsea
2018 (*) Chris Ceresa, Huron Valley
2019 (*) Tim Kluka, Allen Park Cabrini