By: Eric Montgomery, Heart of America Athletic Conference Information Director
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Larry Lady, the longtime commissioner of the Heart of America Athletic Conference (HAAC), has announced that he will retire from the position at the end of the conference fiscal year, June 30, 2014. Now in his 21st year as commissioner, he will step aside and serve in a consulting role.
“It was a hard decision,” Lady said. “My health is good, but I’ll be 73 soon and my wife and I would like to travel. I’ve been doing this for 21 years after having retired from my previous job of 28 years. I think that’s enough.”
Lady said he will continue as a consultant for the HAAC and will stay involved with many other aspects of the HAAC and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).
“I’ll probably still put in just about as many hours as I did, but it will be in a volunteer role,” he said.
In addition to his duties as conference commissioner, Lady also currently serves the NAIA national office on severallevels. On top of that, he serves as an NCAA Evaluator of Basketball Officials for the Big XII Conference.
Lady is Past Chair of the NAIA's Council of Affiliated Conferences and Independents and for the Association of Affiliated Conferences. He is the NAIA's National Coordinator of Officials for men's and women's basketball, baseball and football and has served in that capacity since the 1996‐97 season. As such, he is responsible for selecting all officials for the four national basketball tournaments, the baseball world series and for all football playoff games. In addition, Lady has served as a member of the NAIA's National Coordinating Committee and he has been involved with the national office for 26 years as a NAIA associate and honorary coach. He also served as the NAIA radio voice at three national basketball tournaments.
“Larry Lady is a legend in the NAIA and has devoted much of his life’s work to the NAIA and the HAAC,” said Jim Carr, President and CEO of the NAIA. “We will miss his leadership and dedication as a conference commissioner but are fortunate to have him remain in the NAIA family in his various volunteer roles.”
Lady has been the HAAC men's basketball supervisor of officials, selecting and supervising officials for conference, district & regional playoffs. He also served 20 years as commissioner of the Kansas City (Kansas) High School League and of the Huron High School League. In that capacity, he was responsible for selecting, training, assigning and supervising 350 high school officials in all sports for 10 Kansas City Metropolitan high schools.
Lady also officiated college basketball from 1959 to 2000. He officiated basketball for the NCAA (Divisions I, II, III) and for junior colleges in Kansas and Missouri. He even officiated in the NAIA Division I national basketball tournament in Kansas City for five years (1989‐1993) and officiated the national junior college basketball tournament in Hutchinson, Kansas, in 1988. Lady officiated college baseball & football and from 1959 to 1985 and officiated three sports: basketball, football & baseball at the high school level.
Lady was honored by the NAIA in 2000 when it inaugurated an award in his name. The Larry Lady Award is presented on an annual basis to recognize the long‐time contributions of NAIA officials.
In 2001, at the 64th annual NAIA Division I basketball tournament, Lady was further honored by the NAIA with the prestigious Frank Cramer Award. The award was begun in 1963 and is named for Frank Cramer, one of the originators of the national tournament and the founder of the Cramer Chemical Company in Gardner, Kansas. The annual award is presented to the person or persons who have contributed the most over a number of years to the men's tournament. Lady was attending his 51st consecutive tournament in 2001. He was introduced to the tournament in 1951 by his grandfather and hasn’t missed one since.
“I’ve been involved with the NAIA since I was 10 years old,” he said. “It’s been a passion of mine forever and I like the way the NAIA does its athletics; the Champions of Character is huge to me.”
In March, 2004 at the NAIA National Convention, Lady was awarded the NAIA's highest honor: induction into the NAIA Hall of Fame. Then, in 2008, Lady was once again honored at the highest level by his induction into the Kansas Collegiate Officials Hall of Fame in The Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.
Lady is particularly proud of the fact that the HAAC Council of Presidents, made up of the presidents of the member schools, has become so active in the activities of the conference.
“When I started in 1993, I was greeted by less than half the presidents at the meeting,” he said. “I told them we needed more participation and I pushed for it. We wrote it into the constitution and we got everyone showing up. That really set the conference in the right direction.”
Lady said he took the success of an active HAAC Council of Presidents to the NAIA and encouraged other conferences to do the same. Today the NAIA has an active National Council of Presidents as well.
“I really do believe it’s the best conference in the NAIA,” Lady said. “This conference (HAAC) does more of what the NAIA stands for than any other conference in the country. And it’s been because of the effort and involvement of the presidents. I love working with the presidents of the member schools. It’s cliché, but it’s true. It’s a team effort.”
In his final year, he doesn’t expect anything to be any different. He said the conference has a lot going on and he’s going to be doing his job as usual.
“I’m going to do what I always do,” he said. “We have a lot on our plate, including evaluating the possibility of adding some new member schools. That’s going to be important moving forward.”
Lady came to the HAAC in 1993 after retiring as executive vice‐president of Waddell and Reed, Inc., of Overland Park, Kansas. He was employed by the company for 28 years. Prior to his employment with Waddell and Reed, Lady coached basketball and taught at the high school level for four years. Lady earned a Bachelor's of Science degree from the University of Kansas and did his graduate studies at Emporia State University.