In a Wednesday afternoon press conference, Alabama High School Athletic Association executive director Steve Savarese, a former head football coach at McGill-Toolen and Daphne, announced his retirement.
Savarese, 68, is only the fourth full-time executive director in the AHSAA’s history. He has spent the past 15 years in the position, leaving his head coaching job at McGill-Toolen in 2006 to accept the AHSAA position. At the time he left coaching, Savarese was the winningest active AHSAA head coach in the state. He was elected to the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 2019.
Setting his retirement date in July, Savarese said he would “serve at the pleasure of the (AHSAA Central) Board” until a replacement is hired and settled into the executive director’s position. He cited the desire to spend more time with his family — his wife Beth, children and especially his four grandchildren — as the reason for his retirement.
“You know when it’s time,” Savarese said. “And when you’re 68 like me, about to be 69 in October, you just know when it’s time. Was it a certain thing? No. But I will tell you there’s a young man sitting back there — my son — he’s the one that asked me, ‘How many more birthdays you going to miss, dad? How many more celebrations (are) you going to miss with the kids, dad?’ And I love them more than anything in the world. So dad’s coming home, mom’s coming home.”
Savarese was born in Leeds but attended college in Kansas, where he earned his first head coaching job at Douglass High School, leading that school to a state championship in 1978. After six years at Douglass he returned to Alabama as head coach at Ensley High School in Birmingham. He later served as head coach at Benjamin Russell in Alex City, Daphne and McGill-Toolen. Savarese led Daphne to the state championship in 2001.
“Forty-seven years is a long time, and it’s now time,” Savarese said. “I’ve had an awesome time — teaching, coaching, serving as an administrator and most humbling, serving as executive director of the Alabama High School Athletic Association. To follow icons such as Cliff Parker, Bubba Scott and Dan Washburn has been the greatest honor of my life.
“Professionally, I would not change a thing regarding my career. I genuinely feel that I have never worked a day in my life. I’ve tried to approach each day knowing that nothing worthwhile was ever achieved without enthusiasm. God has truly blessed me.”
Savarese said students have been the highlight of his career and those relationships are honored and treasured.
During his time at the podium, Savarese praised his wife Beth for their 45 years together, referring to her as the “best spouse he could possibly ask for.” In a light moment, Savarese said his wife was a better driver than AHSAA associate executive director Alvin Briggs, noting “Alvin likes to draft, you like to pass.”
AHSAA Central Board president Van Phillips said the organization will post the job opening on the AHSAA website Thursday morning and accept applications from all interested and qualified candidates. He said a seven-person search committee would review the applicants and eventually make a recommendation to the Central Board of a candidate to become the next executive director.
Phillips said under Savarese the AHSAA has achieved its best-ever financial stability, including his establishment of a revenue-sharing initiative that has provided $16 million for member schools since 2010.
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