Ken Baker’s longtime passion for high school athletics will serve him well in his role as commissioner of the Ohio Capital Conference.
Baker was approved by the conference’s executive board April 23 to replace Dave Cecutti, who announced in January that he will be stepping down effective June 1 after nearly 13 years with the organization.
The OCC, which was founded in 1966, did not have a commissioner until Cecutti accepted the position in September 2007.
Baker is looking forward to meeting with Cecutti to learn the ropes, but he already has an idea of how he wants to lead the conference, which has 32 schools.
“My No. 1 goal is to listen to the league schools, listen to their administrators, their athletic directors (and their) coaches,” said Baker, who will take over June 1. “My job is to get out, get to know these folks and find out what the consensus is on things that they feel need to be improved on in the conference.”
Baker, 64, has worked with the Ohio Association of Secondary School Administrators for 12 years, including the last seven and a half as executive director. He said he is retiring from the association effective June 30.
His new role with the OCC will “allow me to concentrate my energy on a passion that I’ve had in education for years and that’s athletics,” Baker said. “I’ve had to be a generalist in working for (the Ohio Association of Secondary School Administrators). Part of my job as executive director was to be involved in athletic decisions and athletic happenings.
“By becoming commissioner of the OCC, I’m able to concentrate those energies on an area that I’ve always felt strongly about and that’s the student-athlete and the value added of athletics to the high school and middle school programs.”
Baker said he can give administrators advice on issues such as athletic code of conduct and legal legislative updates. He also provides legal consultation on administrative contracts and negotiations, including those for athletics directors.
Mike Ulring, the OCC’s executive director and Dublin Coffman’s principal, said Baker’s experience in administration “has been invaluable” for the conference.
“He’s our go-to guy as principals when we have a problem at our schools,” Ulring said. “Fifty percent of what you have problems (with) involves athletics.
“He has a lot of experience in athletics and he has developed a great relationship with the Ohio High School Athletic Association and (executive director) Jerry Snodgrass.”
Ulring said key things in which Baker has provided consultation include student discipline and legal issues with a family.
“He’s an adviser for a lot of people,” Ulring said. “He’s very heavily involved in the legal aspect of administration and he’s very knowledgeable about the athletic legal aspect with this day and age of kids moving and all the bylaws that (OHSAA) has in athletics.”
Baker graduated from Findlay High School in 1974 and earned a bachelor’s degree in English education from Miami University in 1978. He earned a master’s degree in education in 1982 and a specialist degree in educational law in 1987, both from Bowling Green.
After completing graduate study at Bowling Green, Baker served as an assistant coach in football and baseball at West Chester Lakota for three years. He later was a principal at several high schools around Ohio for 22 years, including from 1994-98 at Pickerington, where he was hired by former superintendent and former OHSAA executive director Dan Ross.
Baker and his wife, Debbie, have two sons, one daughter and seven grandchildren.
Under Cecutti, the OCC expanded from 30 to 32 schools -- adding Canal Winchester, Hilliard Bradley, Olentangy Berlin and Olentangy Orange and losing Mount Vernon and Watkins Memorial -- and increased its number of sanctioned sports to 25.
Cecutti, who will be helping with Baker’s transition, also played a key role in four conference realignments, including the one that will take effect next school year.
The previous three occurred in 2008, 2012 and 2016.
“I’m very anxious to sit down with Dave and talk about his institutional knowledge,” Baker said. “I just hope I have enough room for the files and the information that I’m sure he’s going to be sharing with me. He’s going to be very critical in this transition.”