The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Board of Directors met at its regularly scheduled meeting at the Pere Marquette Hotel in Peoria on Monday, December 14, 2015, where the Board voted to accept recommendations from IHSA Executive Director-Elect Craig Anderson to hire current Mt. Zion High School Principal Kraig Garber and Lincoln High School Athletic Director Sam Knox to serve in Assistant Executive Director roles.
“It’s a privilege to welcome Kraig and Sam to the IHSA team,” said Anderson. “The IHSA’s history is rooted in leadership from its member school principals, while athletic directors have taken on a greater role in shaping the Association’s path more recently. We are very pleased to have both perspectives represented in these hires, but even more so to be able to add two quality people and professionals.”
Garber and Knox will fill the roles created by Anderson’s ascension from his current Assistant Executive Director post to the Executive Director position in January, 2016 (following the retirement of current Executive Director Marty Hickman
), as well as Assistant Executive Director Ron McGraw’s coming retirement in June.
Both Garber and Knox are expected to begin their IHSA tenures in July following the conclusion of the 2015-16 school term at their respective high schools. The exact duties for both will be assigned at a later date, although Knox is expected to take on many of Anderson’s previous responsibilities, and Garber to take over many of McGraw’s duties.
“We had nearly 100 applicants for these positions,” said Anderson. “It is a humbling experience to have so many quality individuals want to be a part of the organization. Kraig and Sam both have extensive high school experiences as both students and professionals, and the leadership they have shown made it clear to our staff that they were the right fits for our current open positions.”
Bios on Kraig and Sam are posted below.
A 1998 graduate of Carrollton High School, Kraig Garber participated in football, basketball, and track & field during his time as a high school student-athlete. A fourth-place long jump finisher in the state meet as a senior, he earned a track & field scholarship to Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville (SIUE) that set a career in education in motion.
“I am thrilled to accept the opportunity to join the IHSA staff,” said Garber. “High school sports and extracurricular activities were instrumental in my life, and through my work with the IHSA, I hope to help contribute to creating the same type of positive experiences to student participants across the state of Illinois.”
Garber rose to the Principal position at his alma mater, Carrollton High School, in 2010, and then moved into the same role at Mt. Zion in 2012. In his short time at Mt. Zion, Garber has made a significant impact on students and teachers, as well as on the school’s extracurricular programs. His tenure encompassed the two highest PSAE testing scores in school history, the implementation of a book study program for employees aimed at social and emotion growth, and facility improvements that include the installation of an artificial turf football field, a new track, and the addition of a field house and auditorium. Additionally, he collaborated with the school’s ATC to help facilitate Mt. Zion becoming one of the first high schools in the country to integrate the Vector mouth guard impact intelligence system, which measures athlete contact in real-time.
“Kraig has climbed the ladder very quickly,” said Anderson. “It is very clear from the moment that you meet him that he is a great communicator with a clear vision. In each of his professional roles he has set defined goals and used innovation and hard work to achieve them. Carrollton and Mt. Zion have both benefited greatly from his time there, and we expect that he will do great things representing our 800-plus member schools in the future.”
Garber graduated from SIUE with a Bachelor’s Degree in History/Secondary Education and a minor in Political Science in 2003. He has since gone on to complete a Master’s Degree in Educational Administration from SIUE, as well as a Specialist Degree in Education and Superintendent Endorsement from Eastern Illinois University.
His teaching career began at Carrollton High School in 2003, and his time prior to moving into administration included coaching boys’ basketball, girls’ basketball, track & field, and tennis at the grade and high school levels. Garber was named the Assistant Principal at Carrollton’s Middle/High School in 2009 and took over the high school principal duties the following year. His three years there as principal included the implementation of learning communities and introducing a math/literacy program that helped significantly increase state testing scores.
“I believe that relationships are the most important aspect of any job,” said Garber. “I am anxious to begin serving and developing positive relationships with the member schools for the benefit of their programs and students. I would like to thank the IHSA staff and Board of Directors for allowing me the opportunity to join their team to help contribute to the continuing success of the Association.”
A member of the Illinois Principals’ Association and current Vice-President of the Apollo Conference,
Garber ran for a vacant seat on the IHSA Legislative Commission earlier this year.
His prep career also included leading the Hawks to the Sectional basketball tournament, where they outlasted Bluffs in seven overtimes, one of the longest games in IHSA history. During Garber’s tenure as principal, the Carrollton baseball team won an IHSA state title, while the boys’ basketball program placed second in the state.
He resides in Mt. Zion with his wife Jami, and their two children Lucas and Haley.
Sam Knox was a three-sport athlete who participated in football, basketball, and baseball during his high school career at Unity High School in Mendon. Those experiences, which included quarterbacking the school to its first playoff appearance and being a member of a Super-Sectional basketball team, instilled a life-long love of education-based athletics that led him to his current role as the Athletic Director/Assistant Principal at Lincoln High School in Lincoln.
“I am extremely humbled and excited to join the IHSA staff,” said Knox. “Although I didn’t have the privilege of winning a state title as a player or a coach, the special feeling of reaching the pinnacle of my profession must be similar to the feeling of raising the championship trophy. The IHSA has established a long tradition of offering top-quality sports and activities to students throughout the state. I look forward to new challenges that await us in continuing that tradition.”
Knox has earned statewide recognition among his peers for his involvement in both professional organizations and the IHSA. In addition to earning Certified Athletic Administrator status from the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA) and being a member of the Illinois Principals Association, Knox maintains a leadership role in the Illinois Athletic Directors Association, acting as the organization’s Treasurer since 2014. Knox has served on four different IHSA committees in his career, is currently in his second elected term as an IHSA Legislative Commissioner, and is a volunteer at the IHSA Boys Basketball State Finals. In addition, he is a certified IHSA basketball and baseball official with a combined 39 years of service.
“Sam Knox is someone who embodies the IHSA mission,” said Anderson. “His experiences as a student-athlete have shaped the person he is today and his desire to give back in the hopes that other young people will have similar opportunities. I am confident that his work ethic and positive demeanor will help him excel as he works with administrators, coaches and officials throughout the state.”
Knox attended Illinois College, where he participated in football for two years, and completed his Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education. He went on to earn a Master’s Degree in Educational Administration, as well as his Type 75 Administrative Certificate, from Western Illinois University.
Knox’s professional career began as an elementary school teacher in Loraine, Illinois, in 1995, before he returned to Mendon to teach in the middle school. He remained there as a teacher until 2005, while also adding the Middle School and High School Athletic Director duties to his resume in 2003. During his time at his alma mater, he coached football at Unity High School for 10 years, while spending another five seasons coaching basketball at the middle school and high school levels. In 2005, he accepted the Activities Director/Assistant Principal position at Lincoln High School, where he hosted numerous IHSA State Series tournaments and arranged the Central State 8 Conference schedule rotations in a variety of sports in addition to his regular responsibilities.
“I enjoyed a fantastic high school experience thanks to influential coaches and teachers who made a major difference in my life. Some of my best memories come from participating in high school sports and activities with great teammates who are still some of my closest friends. The relationships I have developed during my career as a teacher, coach, official, and AD will be valuable as I team with others to help thousands of students create their own memories in the future.”
Knox resides in Lincoln with his wife Marsha, daughter Emily and sons Adam and Andy.