Nelson named NIAA executive director
After helping guide the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association through the pandemic, Donnie Nelson was appointed the fifth executive director.
Nelson was voted by the NIAA’s Board of Control on Thursday during a special meeting at the Silver Legacy in Reno. Nelson, who graduated from the University of Nevada, has been with the NIAA since 1998. He served as an assistant director before becoming interim executive director when Bart Thompson retired in August 2021. Nelson officially takes over in his new position on July 1.
The other finalists for the position were Lowry High School Principal Ray Parks, Damonte Ranch High athletic director Jeff Thiede and Clark County School District athletic director Tim Jackson.
In the time since Nelson took over for Thompson, high school athletics has gradually returned to normal after the pandemic canceled winter sports last year and reduced the remaining sports to abbreviated six-week seasons. During the current school year, state championships returned and the state weathered the omicron surge during the winter season, which was completed in February.
As an assistant director and the NIAA’s sports information director, Nelson has worn many hats including that of tournament director for more than 200 postseason championships, special events coordinator, marketing and public relations director in charge of the Student-Athlete Award program, publishing souvenir state championship event programs and overseeing the NIAA award banquets for the annual Hall of Fame and Top 10 Student Athletes presentations in Reno and Las Vegas.
The NIAA Hall of Fame ceremony returns in June to honor the Class of 2020, which includes Fallon grad Jennifer Hucke, while the Top 10 Student-Athletes program hasn’t missed a step despite having no ceremony.
Nelson also served as the keynote speaker in the Greenwave Hall of Fame’s inaugural ceremony in 2017.
Reporting and being involved with sports have been lifelong passions for the California native. Before becoming the NIAA’s sports information director, Nelson covered all aspects of youth, high-school, collegiate and professional athletic and community events for Gardnerville’s Record-Courier newspaper, a sister publication of the Lahontan Valley News in the Sierra Nevada Media Group.
After he graduated in 1994 from the University of Nevada, Reno with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, Nelson headed to the Pacific Northwest where he became a part-time sports reporter and part-time assistant in the Sports Information Office at the University of Oregon from 1994 to 1996.
Nelson covered all aspects of sports as a sports reporter for The Register-Guard newspaper in Eugene. As a member of the University of Oregon sport information team, Nelson assisted conducting daily duties for Ducks athletics to include producing sports media guides and helping with statistics during football and basketball games including the 1995 Rose Bowl.
In addition to his professional involvement with sports reporting, Nelson was the co-head coach for cross country and a track and field coach from 1994-97.
Running has been in Nelson’s DNA for many years. At Foothill High School, Nelson became a four-year letter winner and two-year team captain. He competed in cross country, basketball and track. At the University of Nevada, Donnie competed on the cross country and track teams from 1989-94 as a scholarship athlete. He served as the team captain in cross country and track and field.
In 1989, Nelson competed in the National Junior Olympic Cross-Country Championship and won the Young Men’s Division at Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana.
Nelson served as meet director in 2000 and 2009 for the National Junior Olympic Cross Country Championship in Reno for more than 3,000 participants.
Steve Ranson contributed to this story.
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