Changes look to reinvigorate DIAA

By Andy Walter
Posted 5/11/24

DOVER — There was no telling where this process would end when it started.

When a state task force began looking into the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association last September, …

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Changes look to reinvigorate DIAA


DOVER — There was no telling where this process would end when it started.

When a state task force began looking into the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association last September, there were a number of people who weren’t happy with the group.

So first the 22-member task force members had to all get on the same page.

“The scope of its directives and the passion of its members to enable Delaware student-athletes to play sports led to a contentious beginning for the task force,” Sen. Nicole Poore, D-New Castle, said when she introduced a bill on Wednesday.

“All members agreed that changes were needed but, at the time, few members agreed on how to make those changes.”

By the end of the sessions, though, the task force agreed on changes they believe will make the DIAA a much more efficient organization. Those recommendations are now part of bills that are going through the state’s legislative process.

While the DIAA would still be part of the Department of Education, the new format would allow its board to make quicker decisions.

DIAA executive director Dave Baylor said regulation changes can currently take about four months because of the process.

“The effect, from our perspective, is the DIAA being able to be more responsive to changes in athletics so we can provide the best resources and opportunities for the student-athletes as we can,” said Baylor, who has been executive director since last July.

“Changing the regulation process — streamlining that — allows us to be more nimble and be able to adapt to change in a more reasonable time then what it currently involves.”

DIAA logo
DIAA logo

Cutting some red tape

The proposed DIAA changes would also allow waiver/transfer requests to be decided by the executive director rather than the time-consuming process of being heard by the entire board. There would still be a three-person panel for appeals.

The fact is that middle and high school student-athletes have only a limited time to participate in sports.

“If you think about it and it now takes four months and a school year is about eight to 10 months,” said Baylor, “that’s a pretty good amount of time out of a school year that a student-athletic could potentially miss an opportunity to compete.”

Taking up big parts of the board’s meeting time, as well as pulling student-athletes out of class, never seemed like a good process, said Baylor.

“I think it made everyone feel uncomfortable,” he said. “It made everyone question the DIAA and what it’s really about.”

More staff for DIAA

The task force recommended that the DIAA have a bigger full-time staff. The office currently only has an executive director and a coordinator of athletics, along with a secretary.

Former executive director Tommie Neubauer still assists the DIAA as a contractor.

The task force has recommended adding three full-time positions to “dramatically ease the overwhelming burden that has been placed on the current staff,”

It has also been recommended that the DIAA board of directors be reduced from 20 members to 15 voting members. There would also be non-voting spots on the board for a representative from both Delaware State University and the University of Delaware.

The new board would consist of a principal and athletic director from each of the state’s three counties, a head of school and an AD from a non-public school, the president of the Delaware Chief School Officers Association, a sports medicine professional, a mental or behavioral health specialist, an athletic trainer; and three public members.

The new board members would be appointed by the governor. Whether it would greatly change the actual board membership remains to be seen.

The hope is that a smaller board would help make the DIAA more efficient as well as include people who are involved in different aspects of scholastic athletics.

Baylor said athletic directors, in particular, are “on the front line when it comes to enforcing regulations.”

“They have to make sure that their coaches and student-athletes are complying and know about all the regulations,” said Baylor. “Having those people on the board that understand the impact on both the school and the student-athlete is really helpful for the board to be more effective.”

The legislation would also clarify the DIAA’s transfer policies, something that Baylor said “levels the playing field for everyone.”

Rebuilding the brand

The current DIAA has been in place for 22 years. Its predecessor, the Delaware Secondary School Athletic Association, was done away with by another state legislative effort.

The task force didn’t feel that step needed to be taken this time. But Poore said it took a great deal of effort to decide what needed to be changed.

“These bills are the result of many months of meetings filled with intense discussions and a collective agreement to work together to do the best for our children,” she said on the Senate chamber floor.

At the end of the day, Baylor hopes the changes would not only allow the DIAA to accomplish more but also make people in the state have more faith in the organization.

“It’s no fault of the current board at all, but I think because of the way the regulation process was established, the board became more of a ‘hearing’ board instead of a board that provides vision and direction for the DIAA,” said Baylor.

“I think these changes were necessary to reinvigorate the DIAA, to get it backs to its mission,” he added. “Hopefully it will start to rebuild the brand of the DIAA to be a more positive association for the benefit of student-athletes and schools.”

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