Mary Ellen Leicht, the Executive Director of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA), is the recipient of the American Baseball Coaches Association's 2017 Meritorious Service Award, which will be presented at the 2017 ABCA Convention in Anaheim. Leicht has played a vital role in the growth of that organization and has proven herself as an advocate for junior college student-athletes.
In baseball, the NJCAA hosts World Series events in Div. I, II and III each year. Leicht's work with the city of Grand Junction, Colorado has helped to shape the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series (NJCAA Div. I) into the great event it is today. It was first held in Grand Junction in 1960.
The Meritorious Service Award is presented to a person who has proven himself/herself in service to amateur baseball and the ABCA, and whose actions and involvement have resulted in a notable impact on the sport. Service may include years of participation, administration, contribution, innovation, or exposure/advancement of amateur baseball through media coverage.
Leicht will receive the Meritorious Service Award at the Honors Luncheon during the ABCA Convention on Jan. 7, 2016 at 12 p.m. in Anaheim.
Leicht, who will retire following the 2016-17 season, was named NJCAA Executive Director in 2009. She is just the third person to occupy the position since the association's founding in 1938. Her promotion made history as she became the first female chief executive of not only the NJCAA but of any national collegiate athletic organization in the United States. She will conclude a career spanning 28 consecutive years with the NJCAA, including eight as its chief executive.
Leicht began her career with the association in 1989 as an eligibility administrator and was quickly promoted to associate executive director. She led many of the organization's most challenging initiatives during that time, resulting in more efficient and effective regulations. She assisted with the development of the association's current divisional competition structure for 28 different sports and was also instrumental in the creation and implementation of the NJCAA online eligibility and letter of intent program – one of the most successful programs in the association's history.
During her tenure as Executive Director, Leicht has guided the NJCAA through many challenges while ushering in an era of innovative success. Her leadership helped secure long-term contracts for the association's two most high-profile events, keeping the Division I Men's Basketball Championship in Hutchinson, Kansas, and the Division I Baseball World Series in Grand Junction, Colorado – both coming with multi-million dollar facility renovations and improvements.
Under her direction the association has met many unique challenges facing two-year college athletics, including improvements to student-athlete eligibility standards, expansion of compliance education and enforcement as well as securing sustainable outside revenue through national sponsors.
More recently, Leicht helped lead the comprehensive NJCAA Excellence Initiative aimed at examining the association's organizational and legislative structures. While the project is still ongoing, it has already resulted in the adoption of a new strategic plan and the creation of the Presidential Advisory Council – expanding the involvement of member college presidents in the NJCAA.
Leicht's steadfast commitment to raising the NJCAA's profile and brand led to the 2009 launch of the association's live video broadcasting network– NJCAA TV, providing a prominent and visible platform to greater showcase the organization's highly competitive national events. After reaching over 525,000 viewers last year, NJCAA TV will expand in 2016-17 to include live coverage of 22 national championships.
Leicht's accomplishments and leadership have not gone unnoticed. In 2014 she was honored with the NJCAA Reed K. Swenson Leadership Award, becoming just the 10th individual to ever receive the honor since its creation in 1980. She was also inducted into the NJCAA Volleyball Coaches Association Hall of Fame as a contributor in 2004.