By Brad Morris
Jim Hayes has been around the table of the Mid-State League for 35 school years, 23 on the executive committee as athletic director at Teays Valley and for the last 12 as the commissioner of the league. Citing personal reasons this week, Hayes said he will be stepping down as MSL commissioner on June 30.
“I’ve enjoyed the many relationships that I’ve had over the years in the MSL and getting to work with a lot of different people,” Hayes said. “We’ve been dealing with challenges in high school athletics and also league-related since before I became commissioner and those will continue with how society is evolving. I don’t want people to think that I am stepping aside because of that.
“I just figured after 35 years of being around the league table and with six grandkids that I’d like to spend a little more time with that now was the right time and that the league may benefit with having a new voice to lead it.”
Hayes, 68, also won’t become commissioner of the new Central Buckeye League, comprised of the eight members of the MSL’s Ohio Division who will leave the league after this school year. He has served as an advisor since last summer in the formation of the CBL.
Hayes plans to remain the treasurer of the Central District and continue as a regional basketball coordinator.
“When I retired from Teays Valley, I said I was used to working 65-70 hours a week and I wasn’t going to go to nothing,” Hayes said. “I’ve enjoyed being the commissioner of the MSL, but the time may be right to have a few less things to do and have a few more hours to myself to do some different things. I still plan on being involved with the Ohio High School Athletic Association, helping out the Central District and being a regional basketball coordinator.”
Hayes has been an advocate of expanding opportunities for students since his days as athletic director at Teays Valley. He advocated for the MSL to adopt bowling as an official sport in his final years at Teays Valley and is proud of the league adding divisions to girls golf and swimming during his tenure as commissioner.
“My goal has always been to get as many of our students involved with extra-curricular activities as possible, because they are a positive influence in teaching kids values like teamwork that will help make them successful in life,” Hayes said. “We had some schools, honestly, like Columbus Academy and Columbus School for Girls, who dominated swimming and adding a division gave more kids an opportunity to try and win a league championship, become a league champion in their event or attain all-league honors.
“I believe it’s important to give our kids something to aspire to and, again, get more kids involved in playing sports.”
Hayes is also proud of the partnership the MSL has with Ohio Christian University and the fourth annual student leadership conference that the two put on earlier this week with approximately 350 students and staff members in attendance.
“We’re fortunate to have a good relationship with OCU and the connections they have to bring in top notch people to talk to our students about leadership and core values,” Hayes said. “The program has been a tremendous success with having people like Kamryn Babb, who played football at Ohio State, coming to talk to our students about the adversity he had to overcome and what drove him to do that.”
Following the departure of the Ohio Division schools at the end of the school year, the MSL will maintain two divisions, the Buckeye and Cardinal.
“The MSL has a strong history dating back nearly 75 years and is one of the more respected leagues in the state,” Hayes said. “Even when we’ve lost some members, like the Licking County schools or the schools forming the Central Buckeye League, they are basically taking our league handbook and making it their own with a few revisions, and the Ohio Division schools were still interested in having me serve as their commissioner with the CBL.
“Everyone has worked hard to have a league that we are proud of, and I know it will remain a strong league with the focus being on our Buckeye and Cardinal division schools moving forward.”
The Buckeye Division will lose its second member to the Ohio Capital Conference when Teays Valley leaves the league following the 2023-24 school year, joining former MSL member Canal Winchester in the OCC’s Buckeye Division.
“The growth of the Columbus metro area has had an impact on the league. Canal Winchester went from a small division school to Division I in a little over a decade and Teays Valley has went from a middle division school to a Division I school,” Hayes said. “The Buckeye schools want to remain at seven, for now, and leave Teays Valley’s spot unfilled after they leave.
.”We’ve worked to adapt to the changing landscape of high school athletics and that’s something the new leadership of the league will continue to do moving forward.”