By Solomon Crenshaw Jr.
Alvin Briggs was 6 years old when he told his mother he wanted to play peewee football. She responded by telling him he had to purchase his own equipment.
“I had to figure out how to buy shoulder pads, all the equipment,” he said. “I started picking up pecans and doing different things for my grandmother. My uncle told me to go down to Goodwill and see what I can find. That’s where I found my equipment.
“I paid a whopping $7.85 for everything,” Briggs recalled. “I remember what the price was.”
Fifty years later, Briggs, 56, has gone from being responsible for his peewee sports experience to leading the agency that governs interscholastic sports in high schools, middle schools and junior high schools across the state.
The Central Board of Control of the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) recently named Briggs the fifth executive director of the association. He is the first Black person to be in that role, a fact that pales by comparison to Briggs’ immense qualifications for the job.
Center Point High School Principal Van Phillips, chairman of the Central Board, said Briggs’ experience made him stand out from other applicants.
His resume includes:
- Head football coach when Bradshaw and Coffee high schools merged to form Florence High.
- Assistant coach at the University of North Alabama(UNA).
- Extensive knowledge of collegiate and professional sports, after playing with the National Football League’s Dallas Cowboys.
- Executive experience that no other AHSAA executive director had prior to assuming the role.
“His experience and his body of work far exceeded all the other candidates who applied for the position,” said Phillips, who is just the second Black to lead the Central Board. “He was the best candidate for the position, whose persuasion happens to be African American. You can’t ignore the fact that he is the first African American executive director in the 100-year history of the Alabama High School Athletic Association.
“That within itself is earth-shattering and earth-moving for a lot of people who now know that there is no level that they cannot attain as it relates to executive positions in the Alabama High School Athletic Association.”
Briggs’ hiring as executive director is just one of the history-making events at the AHSAA. Kim Vickers was hired as associate executive director, making her the first woman in that role.
“I asked her and hired her because she’s a quality person, not thinking about anything else,” Briggs said. “She’s been here. Matter of fact, she applied for the (executive director) job. And if she had gotten it, I still would have been here, working for her, because we get along like that.”
The AHSAA executive director called the association leadership “a formidable team.”
“You want people that compete around you just like you compete for them,” he said. “We understand that there’s a historical value in this, but we move on from that because, for both of us, (if) we don’t do the job like we’re supposed to do now, that makes a difference.”
Briggs is the first person selected executive director who was already working for AHSAA. He’s spent the past decade with the association, serving first as director of the Alabama High School Athletic Directors & Coaches Association from 2011 until 2018. He was associate executive director the past three years.
Steve Savarese, the immediate past executive director, interviewed Briggs when he applied to lead the athletic directors and coaches association. Briggs recalls Savarese as being where he envisioned himself in 10 years.
“I said, ‘I want your job.’ Matter of fact, I pointed at him and said, ‘I want your job.’ To me that’s what you strive for. You don’t go into an organization just to stay at one level. You want to progress in that organization. That was the response and I don’t think I would ever change it. That’s what you strive for,” Briggs said.
Savarese was impressed, saying the applicant’s response was “the perfect answer.”
“When you hire someone, you’re always looking to hire people who desire to achieve, and you’re always looking for successors,” the retired executive director said. “I’m a realist. I knew I wasn’t gonna be there forever. You want to hire people that will continue the traditions of the association. They truly care about student athletes, and you’re always looking for that next person.”
Savarese said he tried to work with each assistant director to develop fully.
“In fairness to every employee who works for the Alabama High School Athletic Association, I tried to work with everyone in that way, to make them better in their jobs each day,” he said. “Not everyone desires to sit in that main chair. Alvin just was one of those, so I did try to work with him every day to try to help him achieve his goal.
“Some days, if you ask him, I was probably a little harder on him than I was others because I knew of his desire.”
Briggs earned his bachelor’s degree in education from UNA in 1993, majoring in health, physical education and recreation. He received a master’s degree in education from UNA in 1995.
He was a standout high school student-athlete at Greenville High School, playing football, basketball and running track. “It all started out to get out of chores,” he said, “but you still had to do those chores, so that didn’t work.”
He played in the AHSAA North-South Football All-Star Game in 1982. To date, he is the only player to score a touchdown on offense and defense in that all-star game.
Briggs was a star defensive back at Auburn University from 1983 to 1987. He was a member of the Dallas Cowboys (1988-1989) until injuries cut short his NFL career.
He joined the football coaching staff at UNA in 1993 and remained through 2001. During his time on the staff, he helped lead the Lions to seven NCAA Division II playoff appearances, three Gulf South Conference Championships and three NCAA Division II National Championships.
He moved back to his hometown of Greenville in 2001 as system athletic director and head football coach through 2005. He then returned to Florence as assistant athletic director for the Florence City School System. In 2007 he was promoted to system athletic director and head football coach at Florence High through 2011.
His overall coaching record was 52-44. His Greenville teams made three trips to the state playoffs in four years and his Florence teams made two trips in four years. His best season was 9-3 in 2009.