Diverse high school athletic experiences paid dividends recently for Mike Simpson, who is into his eighth year as Guthrie Public Schools Superintendent.
The 1986 Stillwater High graduate became a member of the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association Board of Directors in 2014. Last year, he served the board as vice-president.
Last week, Simpson was voted president of the OSSAA board and former Oklahoma State baseball player Rusty Puffinbarger, superintendent at Leedey Public Schools, was elected vice-president. Simpson begins his duties July 1.
Simpson’s resume is ideal for the OSSAA board. He’s been involved in high school sports as an athlete, coach, athletic director and administrator.
While at SHS, Simpson played varsity golf and was manager on the boys’ basketball team. He was given numerous responsibilities and handled all efficiently. He also was an official scorer during American Legion baseball games one summer. He earned a reputation as a detail-oriented person who was thorough in preparation.
While attending OSU, Simpson was a manager for the men’s basketball team under former head coaches Leonard Hamilton and Eddie Sutton. Those connections proved beneficial.
After graduation from college, Simpson was an assistant men’s basketball coach at Sam Houston State one season before becoming head boys’ hoops coach at Apache (1993-96) and Blackwell 1(996-2000). From 2000-2008, he was SHS’s athletic director before taking an assistant superintendent’s post at Ponca City (2008-12) and moving into his current post at Guthrie in 2012.
“I truly believe that one of the most important things we do as educators is extend the school day with extra-curricular activities. It played a big part in my life growing up and as an adult when I was coaching and later in administration,” Simpson said of accepting another challenge.
“I’ve been an athlete at what is now the 6A level and I’ve coached at virtually every level. In Apache, I was a 2A coach and junior high coach. In Blackwell, I coached 4A and when I returned to Stillwater, I was AD on the 6A level. And, I was on the Division I level at OSU … that’s a pretty wide spectrum of experience that gives me a unique perspective.
“I’ve seen the difference it makes in kids’ lives and that was my passion for running for the OSSAA board. And, as things have evolved, it became an opportunity to attempt to lead … which is something I felt called to do,” he added.
“We’ve got great people on the board and we’ve got an amazing staff. From top to bottom, it’s probably in as good a shape as I can remember. Our executive director (David Jackson) was the recent director of the national federation so he has a huge network of colleagues that give him input about what other states are doing.”
Challenges await the OSSAA in these unprecedented times, especially after the state basketball championships were cancelled along with all spring sports. Some states will be impacted financially by the loss of revenue.
“We’re going to take a $500,000 loss this year because of the state tournament. We had ample reserves which helped, but we’ll be taking a long-term view for how we build those reserves back,” said Simpson, who has been on the board’s finance committee during his tenure. “The economy is a worry.”