- Associated Press - Friday, January 30, 2015

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - The executive director of the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission is retiring.

Gary Ray will step down next January after more than eight years as head of the agency that oversees interscholastic athletics, cheerleading and band activities among its more than 280 member schools.

Under Ray, the SSAC passed a regulation designed to protect athletes from sports-related concussions and keep those who have them from returning to the field prematurely. Head coaches for all sports in middle and high schools must receive training on how to recognize concussions and how to deal with them.

“We’ve done some good things in player safety, working with the Legislature to craft a bill to give our concussions policy some teeth,” Ray said Friday.

The SSAC board of directors accepted Ray’s retirement at a meeting Wednesday. His job was posted on the SSAC’s website Friday and a successor is expected to be named by mid-April.

One of the most high-profile incidents under Ray occurred in 2010, when the Class AAA football championship game was delayed a week while an eligibility issue played out in the courts.

Several South Charleston players had been involved in a fight during a quarterfinal game. After the state Supreme Court overturned rulings that had made four South Charleston players eligible, the SSAC ordered the school to forfeit a semifinal win, sending Brooke into the championship game, where it lost to Martinsburg.

In 2008, the SSAC established a new seeding formula for the boys and girls basketball sectional and regional tournaments aimed at sending the strongest fields to the state tournament.

In 2013, Ray helped organize a large banquet before the boys tournament in Charleston to celebrate the tournament’s 100th year.

“A lot of people like to compare West Virginia to other states,” Ray said. “I like to say that other states look to West Virginia a lot of times to improve on what they’re doing. I think that we’ve done a good job in making sure that what we have for our student-athletes and our main focus on them is positive.”

Ray has been with the SSAC since 2001. Before that he served in several capacities in the Fayette County school system. He currently serves on the board for the National Federation of State High School Associations.

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