Tripp turns in resignation letter, will leave on Friday

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By Mike Cote

The New Mexico Activities Association announced Tuesday that executive director Gary Tripp will resign his post effective Friday.
Tripp, who has headed the NMAA since 2004, is leaving to assume the role of principal at Zia Pueblo Day School.
The NMAA said a team of three officers, commissioner of officials Dana Sanchez, deputy director Bill Cleland and assistant executive director Sally Marquez, will take over the association’s day-to-day operations until a new executive director is hired.
This is not the first time Tripp, who was the athletic director at Rio Rancho before taking over the state’s top high school interscholastic sports job, has made plans to resign. Tripp turned in a resignation letter to the NMAA board of directors in summer 2011 that he would retire following the 2011-12 academic year.
However, Tripp rescinded his letter and remained the executive director. But an emergency meeting of the board was called Tuesday morning where Tripp announced his intentions to step down.
Los Alamos athletic director Vicki Nelms, who said she was caught off-guard with Tripp’s announcement last year, said she was again surprised by Tuesday’s announcement of his resignation.
“I was shocked,” said Nelms, who joined Los Alamos Public Schools in 2007 and has only known Tripp in the NMAA’s top spot. “I wasn’t expecting it. I saw him just a couple of days before and I had no idea he was thinking about leaving.”
Tripp’s replacement will be the sixth executive director in NMAA history.
As for the outgoing Tripp, he came into the post under less-than-ideal circumstances after the messy departure of Dan Salzwedel stemming from a financial shortfall that members schools were asked to foot. Additionally, Albuquerque Public Schools and Moriarity were hopping mad over a controversial district alignment which matched up Eldorado and Manzano with teams from the southeastern part of the state. Tripp was able to smooth the relationship over and realign the districts more to APS’ liking.
In a relatively short period of time after Tripp took the reins, the NMAA had turned around its bumbling reputation and became a well-oiled machine.
Whether that continues under the new regime remains to be seen. In just a little over two weeks, the NMAA has lost both Tripp and assistant director Robert Zayas, who was in charge of, among other things, the state soccer tournament and turned that event into a major draw for the association.
Zayas left to become the head of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association, one of the largest public school athletic associations in the country.
The NMAA announced it will formally begin seeking replacements for Tripp as of Friday and is requesting that letters of interest be submitted no later than Sept. 14.
Nelms said she didn’t think any of the upcoming playoffs would be adversely affected by all the recent attrition at the NMAA. The association coordinates most of the prep interscholastic sports postseasons in New Mexico.
Among Tripp’s major accomplishments were the founding of the NMAA Foundation, which awards student-athlete scholarships and helps provide funds for schools trying to get athletic programs off the ground.
Tripp’s resignation announcement comes just one day after the official opening of the fall prep sports preseason. All fall sports except football officially began preseason workouts Monday around the state.