High School Sports

The father of the All ‘A’ Classic has died. ‘His heart was to help.’

Stan Steidel, the longtime coach and athletics administrator credited with coming up with the idea for Kentucky high school basketball’s All “A” Classic, died Monday in an auto accident at the age of 78, according to reports from several Northern Kentucky media outlets.

Steidel continued to work as athletics director at Holmes High School at the time of his passing and was a coach and administrator at Dayton High School for many years.

He served as the All “A” Classic’s chairman/president since its inception and left a legacy as a champion of students and athletes from Kentucky’s small schools.

“Stan was a great youth ambassador,” said Mike Reeves, who has served alongside Steidel on the Classic’s executive committee as secretary and events coordinator for many years. “The thing that has impressed me the most about Stan is that’s where his heart was. His heart was to help all people, but especially young people. Through the 25 years or so that I’ve worked with him, he’s always, always put the kids first.

“You can’t hardly find people (these days) who are willing to give the time he gave with no compensation for it. Everything he’s ever done for the All ‘A’ has been free. ...

As a basketball coach at Dayton in 1979, Steidel worked with other small-school coaches in Northern Kentucky to establish the first Class “A” Tournament at Holy Cross High School in Latonia in 1980. It began with eight teams from the area. Soon, it expanded to invite teams from elsewhere in the state until it finally went statewide in 1990 with a Sweet Sixteen-style format played in the middle of the basketball season.

“We’re not on a crusade, and we’re not making a statement against or for anything,” Steidel said ahead of the tournament’s expansion in 1990 amid pressure that Kentucky follow suit with other states and divide high school basketball into classes because of concerns about smaller schools struggling to compete for a state championship. “We just want to give the small schools in the state a chance to accomplish something special. We think it’s an idea that will be successful.”

The 1990 event at Memorial Coliseum was so successful the Classic added a girls’ tournament the next year.

“He certainly had given almost his entire career to defending opportunities for small schools,” said Julian Tackett, commissioner of the Kentucky High School Athletics Association. “He will definitely be missed. Passion comes to mind. Tenacity comes to mind. Never really had to question his motivation. It was always about student opportunities. … He was very much devoted to the experience for the kids, particularly those at the small schools.

Today, there’s an All “A” Classic for basketball, baseball, softball, golf, soccer, volleyball, cheerleading and an art competition.

And the Classic awards dozens of $1,000 scholarships each year to students from small schools with the total over its history topping well more than $1.5 million, Reeves said.

“So, many times Stan was out trying to get money for scholarships,” Reeves said. “A lot of people don’t understand the All ‘A’ is so much more than athletics. That was Stan’s dream to not only help the athletes but all the kids.”

The basketball tournament crossed the 1 million attendance mark for its history in 2015.

Many credit the All “A” Classic’s success for perhaps helping save Kentucky’s traditional one-class basketball system.

As former Herald-Leader writer Mike Fields wrote in 2015: “The All ‘A’ isn’t the grand show of the KHSAA boys’ and girls’ state tournaments, but it’s a big deal. The biggest deal, though, is that the All “A” may have saved Kentucky’s one-class state tournament. By providing small schools a realistic shot at glory, the push to break basketball up into classes — as Indiana did — eased off.”

Tackett said the All “A” certainly helped alleviate calls for “substantial change” to basketball.

“By having (the All ‘A’), smaller schools got two bites at the apple, and it was a very good relationship,” Tackett said of the Classic’s role in the sport and with the KHSAA.

Steidel was a longtime member and past president of the KHSAA Board of Control. He was inducted into the Dawahares/KHSAA Hall of Fame in 2005. Dayton honored Steidel by dedicating its basketball court in his name in 2018. Steidel graduated from Dayton in 1959.

Word of his passing generated an outpouring of sympathy and praise on social media Monday evening.

“Sad to hear about the passing of Stan Steidel,” Covington Holy Cross boys’ basketball coach Brandon Grammer wrote on Twitter among many other condolences. “He was a great ambassador for student-athletes and a great man. Thankful for the 2 years I got to work with him at Holmes.”

Jared Peck, the Herald-Leader’s Digital Sports Writer, covers high school athletics and has been with the company as a writer and editor for more than 19 years.
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