ASAA’s roots predate statehood. In the early 1950s, school leaders in the Territory of Alaska recognized the need to separate the high school basketball program from the local town business leagues. William Zahradnicek of Palmer, and W.W. Lahnum and Gordon Guffey of Anchorage, joined forces to organize the Western Alaska High School Activities Association with a mandate to ensure the necessary educational leadership. Sterling Sears of Juneau and Les Wingard and J.E. Danielson of Ketchikan were moving ahead at the same time to form the Southeast Alaska Activities Association.

In 1956, the Territorial Department of Education Superintendents Advisory Commission determined the need for an organization that could establish common rules and regulations to guide the activities of the two associations. In the Fall of 1957, the commission approved the Constitution and Bylaws of the Alaska High School Activities Association (ASAA). Officers representing the two divisions were elected. The first Board of Control consisted of William Zahradnicek, Palmer, as Chairman, J.E. Danielson, Ketchikan, Secretary-Treasurer; and members George McMillan, Juneau, Joe Montgomery, Anchorage, and Sterling Sears, Juneau.

This informal arrangement worked very well until the early 1970s, when the State Legislature added a section to the Educational Statutes placing the Association under the Department of Education. School populations and the number of participating schools were increasing. After many meetings, the two original associations became five distinct Regions based on school size and geographic location. One year later, in 1976, Regions increased to six. The new Board of Control consisted of one member from each Region, a representative of the Association of Alaska School Boards, and a representative of the Superintendents Association. In 1978, the board added a representative of the Alaska Association of Student Governments.

Due to the increasing number of schools participating in boys and girls basketball, the need for additional statewide culminating events became evident. This required the formation of a classification system that spanned all of the Regions. This task fell to a committee composed of representatives from all six Regions. It was known as the “Black and Blue” Ribbon Study Commission because of the difficulties faced in satisfying the needs of each Region. In June 1981, the Board of Control adopted the Commission’s recommendation to establish four classifications based on school enrollment with some overlap in the two smallest classes due to geographic location. The first statewide event for the smaller classes was an invitational basketball tournament held in Anchorage in 1983-84.

In 1986, the Department of Education eliminated funding for ASAA. The Board of Control voted to incorporate as a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, beginning July 1, 1987. Because of ongoing jurisdictional issues between the Association and the State of Alaska, both entities sought a legal resolution. This resulted in the 1995 repeal of the Legislative Statue that had placed ASAA under the Department of Education.

In 2007, in order to ensure consistent tobacco, alcohol and controlled substances policies by member schools and districts, the Board of Directors adopted the “Play for Keeps-Win for Life” program for all student participants.

In 2011, the Alaska Legislature passed House Bill 15, (amended in 2012 under Senate Bill 119), that sets standards for concussion awareness, education, treatment and return to participation protocols. ASAA developed recommended policies and procedures to assist in the implementation of the law.

In 2013, the Alaska Legislature passed Senate Bill 41 that addressed interscholastic participation by “alternative education program students.” ASAA developed bylaws and policies to assist schools, students and families in the implementation of the statute.

Executive Directors

1957-1960 J.E. Danielson (Ketchikan)
1960-1965 Joe Montgomery (Anchorage)
1965-1971 Les Wells (Anchorage)
1971-1975 Rick Arndt (Anchorage)
1976-1976 Ed Frandsen (Wasilla)
1977-1981 Les Wells (Anchorage)
1981-1993 Ed Nash (Anchorage)
1993-2014 Gary Matthews (Anchorage)
2014-present Billy Strickland (Bethel)

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First National Bank Alaska

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