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Stan Steidel’s legacy: a champion for smaller schools

November 6, 2019 FieldsColumn

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BY MIKE FIELDS

Stan Steidel, who tirelessly championed athletic opportunities for smaller high schools, and established the All “A” Classic as his hallmark, died this week in an automobile accident near his home in Northern Kentucky. He was 78.

Stan Steidel

“Stan’s driving force was he just wanted to do for kids,” said Gary Munsie, Steidel’s friend for more than 40 years and an All “A” board member since the tournament’s inception 30 years ago.

Steidel was involved in high school sports in a lot of ways during his career. He was a basketball and football coach at Dayton. He was a long-time athletic director at Dayton and Holmes. He served on the KHSAA Board of Control for 16 years. He headed the Northern Kentucky Athletic Conference for more than two decades.

But he cemented his legacy by spearheading the creation of the All “A” Classic, a state basketball tournament for small schools.

“Stan was a visionary,” Munsie said. “Once we got the All “A” going, he wanted to sustain it and he wanted to make it better every year.”

Harold Combs, another original board member, said Steidel was “just so persistent” in looking for ways to “do something for kids who didn’t have the same opportunities that kids at larger schools had.”

The All “A” was the perfect way.

KHSAA commissioner Julian Tackett said Steidel’s mission in life was clear.

“No one could ever doubt his passion for kids or his tenacity in defending member schools, particularly the smaller schools,” Tackett said. “He spent his whole career working on their behalf.”

And Steidel was never shy about expressing his viewpoints.

“He didn’t care if he was politically correct or not,” Tackett said. “He told you what he thought. But you always knew it wasn’t about him, it was about those he defended so vigorously.”

My favorite Stan Steidel story goes back to an unseasonably warm February morning in 1990, a couple of hours before tip-off of the inaugural state-wide All “A” Classic in Lexington.

Steidel and Munsie were on their way from the Campbell House to UK’s Memorial Coliseum (complete with a police escort!) when Steidel felt like sounding an alarm.

“It was kind of scary,” Steidel recalled a few years ago. “What if only 100 people showed up for the first game? What then? Would all of our hard work come crashing down?”

He need not have worried.

That first All “A” Classic, involving 16 boys’ teams from across the state, had a total attendance of more than 33,000 in its four-day run.

Stan Steidel’s grand idea was a grand success.

Over the last 29 years, the All “A” has drawn well over 1 million fans and awarded more than $1 million in scholarships. And it’s not just basketball anymore. The All “A” has expanded into baseball, cheerleading, softball, soccer, volleyball, golf, and even art.

Steidel is gone, but the All “A” will endure. He helped build it to last.

Besides putting small schools on a big stage, the All “A” aided another cause. By giving small schools a regular chance at a state basketball title, talk about dividing basketball into classes quieted, and Kentucky’s Sweet Sixteen has remained the nation’s premier high school state tournament.

I shared that opinion with Stan Steidel at least a dozen times over the years, and he always had the same response:

“If it’s good for the kids, I’m good with it,” he would say with a smile.

Stan Steidel will be missed. Especially by the kids.

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