ASAA executive director Matthews to retire next year

Beth Bragg

Gary Matthews, the executive director of the group that governs high school sports in Alaska, will retire at the end of the next school year, ending a 21-year run with the Alaska School Activities Association.

The association experienced significant growth under Matthews, going from a staff of four with a $400,000 budget to a staff of eight with nearly a $2.5 million budget.

Matthews, who is wrapping up his 20th year, turns 69 next month. He said he'll stick around for one more school year to give the association time to find a replacement and to help implement a new law addressing athletic eligibility for home-schooled students.

"It's a great job," Matthews said. "I think it's the best job in the state, because first of all, you have to like working with schools and with kids. It's never boring. It's never the same thing. I've never gotten up and dreaded coming to work."

Matthews oversaw the creation of several new state tournaments, including those for soccer; the expansion and consolidation of the state basketball tournaments into a weeklong event at Sullivan Arena, and the expansion of football, which now crowns champions in three enrollment classifications instead of one.

Among his accomplishments, he said he is particularly proud of the 5-year-old Play for Keeps program, which advocates that students abstain from tobacco, drugs and alcohol.

"The evidence now is that it's being effective," he said.

He said he's also gratified that the legislature last year passed a law intended to solve the home-school eligibility issue that cost the 2011 Chugiak football team a berth in the state playoffs. The law allows home-schooled students to pick a school to play sports for, regardless of what school district his or her home-school program may be affiliated with.

Matthews joined ASAA after 14 years at Haines High School, where he was a music teacher and principal.

He and his wife Linda are the parents of three adult children. Matthews, who came to Alaska from Pennsylvania, said the couple plan to stay in Alaska.

ASAA's board of directors will form a search committee for a replacement. Applicant information will be available at

Reach Beth Bragg at or 257-4335.