COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – NJCAA President Bryce Roderick today announced the retirement of NJCAA Executive Director Mary Ellen Leicht following the 2016-17 season. When her final day as executive director comes on July 31, 2017, Leicht will conclude a career spanning 28 consecutive years with the NJCAA, including eight as its chief executive.
"The NJCAA will not be the same without Mary Ellen Leicht," commented Roderick. "Mary Ellen has been an outstanding and innovative leader of the NJCAA. She has been a strong advocate of the student athlete with emphasis on equal opportunity and fair play. Furthermore, she has been a mentor and a friend. She will be missed but we wish her the best in the future."
Leicht began her career with the association in 1989 as an eligibility administrator and was quickly promoted to associate executive director. She led many of the organization's most challenging initiatives during that time, resulting in more efficient and effective regulations. She assisted with the development of the association's current divisional competition structure for 28 different sports and was also instrumental in the creation and implementation of the NJCAA online eligibility and letter of intent program – one of the most successful programs in the association's history.
In 2009 Leicht was named NJCAA Executive Director – just the third person to occupy the position since the association's founding in 1938. Her promotion made history as she became the first female chief executive of not only the NJCAA but of any national collegiate athletic organization in the United States.
"I am extremely proud to have been a part of the incredible progress the NJCAA has made over the last three decades on behalf of our member colleges and student-athletes," said Leicht. "I look forward to seeing the association's continued growth under the forward-thinking and committed leadership of the association's next executive director"
During her tenure as executive director, Leicht has guided the NJCAA through many challenges while ushering in an era of innovative success. Her leadership helped secure long-term contracts for the association's two most high-profile events, keeping the Division I Men's Basketball Championship in Hutchinson, Kansas, and the Division I Baseball World Series in Grand Junction, Colorado – both coming with multi-million dollar facility renovations and improvements.
Under her direction the association has met many unique challenges facing two-year college athletics, including improvements to student-athlete eligibility standards, expansion of compliance education and enforcement as well as securing sustainable outside revenue through national sponsors.
More recently, Leicht helped lead the comprehensive NJCAA Excellence Initiative aimed at examining the association's organizational and legislative structures. While the project is still ongoing, it has already resulted in the adoption of a new strategic plan and the creation of the Presidential Advisory Council – expanding the involvement of member college presidents in the NJCAA.
Leicht's steadfast commitment to raising the NJCAA's profile and brand led to the 2009 launch of the association's live video broadcasting network– NJCAA TV, providing a prominent and visible platform to greater showcase the organization's highly competitive national events. After reaching over 525,000 viewers last year, NJCAA TV will expand in 2016-17 to include live coverage of 22 national championships.
Leicht's accomplishments and leadership have not gone unnoticed. In 2014 she was honored with the NJCAA Reed K. Swenson Leadership Award, becoming just the 10thindividual to ever receive the honor since its creation in 1980. She was also inducted into the NJCAA Volleyball Coaches Association Hall of Fame as a contributor in 2004.
"Being a part of the NJCAA has given me more opportunities than I could ever have imagined 27 years ago," added Leicht. "I give credit to the leadership of this association, as well as to the talented and professional staff I've had the privilege to work with, for the success of this association. The NJCAA has grown and advanced because of the unified efforts of many people."
The NJCAA Executive Committee will commence a national search for Leicht's replacement in the fall of 2016. Additional information regarding the search process and timeline will be disseminated to member colleges of the NJCAA under separate cover.