Michael Cleary (center), who is stepping down as National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics after 46 years, was honored by the United States Sports Academy on Thursday, June 16 at the NACDA annual convention in Orlando. Pictured with Cleary are Bob Vecchione (right), the new NACDA executive director, and Academy Vice President T.J. Rosandich (left).

Michael Cleary, who built the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics into one of the premier collegiate organizations during the past 46 years, was honored for his service by the United States Sports Academy on Thursday, June 16 at the NACDA annual convention in Orlando.

Cleary, the outgoing NACDA executive director, received a token of appreciation from the Academy during a ceremony that also included the presentation of the 2010 Carl Maddox Sports Management Award to Ohio State University Associate Vice President and Director of Athletics Gene Smith in front of a room full of current and former athletic directors.

“I’ve had great presidents who have given our association the leadership we have needed to reach the height that we have attained,” Cleary said.

Academy President and CEO Dr. Thomas P. Rosandich credited Cleary for being “the genesis” for the founding of the Academy in 1968. The Academy’s first Board of Visitors consisted of 33 members and all but one were Directors of Athletics. Two of those original members went on to become chairman of the Academy’s Board of Trustees.

“I recently reflected upon the Academy’s long working relationship with NACDA, and Mr. Cleary has built it into one of the most regal sport organizations in this country, if not the most important,” Rosandich said. “I thank him for the 46 years of leadership that he has given the association. I know what it takes to build an organization and nobody could have done it better than Mr. Cleary.”

The Academy honored Cleary, who will continue to serve as NACDA director emeritus for the next three years, with an Honorary Doctorate in 2003. Bob Vecchione is taking over for Cleary as head of the organization.

Cleary, who was named the organization’s executive director in 1965, has led the association longer than any other current Division I conference commissioner, coaching association executive director or national association leader. In addition, Cleary has had the opportunity to work with all five NCAA presidents.

During the past 46 years, Cleary has overseen the creation of NACDA’s Convention, its 11 affiliate associations, Facilities Workshop, Security Summit, the NACDA Daily Review, the Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup and Athletics Administration. As president of the John McLendon Minority Scholarship Foundation, Cleary has been responsible for raising more than $2 million to date.

NACDA is the professional and educational association for more than 6,500 college athletics administrators at more than 1,600 institutions throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico.