After 14 years at the helm of the Utah High School Activities Association, executive director Evan Excell is calling it quits.

In an e-mail to Board of Trustees and Executive Committee members, Excell announced he will retire June 30, 2008.

"This has been a gut-wrenching decision for me, because I very much look forward to more time with family and pursuit of both recreational and other possibilities, but at the same time leave a position and lifestyle that I have deeply loved during the past 14 years," Excell wrote. "I will miss the meetings, the tournaments (especially being with the students), the many trips (often with board members) and the school visits and contests at the member schools."

He said he and his wife Nicki plan to continue their 40-year tradition of attending a prep contest each Friday night.

Excell's announced retirement isn't a surprise as he thought about exiting last year. He decided to see the state through one more realignment period, which ends in early June.

Excell, a former coach himself, has seen the UHSAA through a period of unprecedented growth and change. Under his guidance the association has grown in numbers and profile as the association also created a foundation that will eventually offer scholarships to prep athletes.

UHSAA attorney Mark Van Wagoner, who has been working for the group for more than 30 years said Excell has handled the changes with grace that would elude most.

"From my vantage point," Van Wagoner said, "it would be impossible to calculate the benefit to the Association from his hard work and foresight. The UHSAA is no longer a small organization that puts on games and festivals. It is a serious enterprise that requires specialized skills and a willingness to go forward in the face of extraordinary pressures. He has become a brilliant executive. Most of all, for me, he never abandoned his life of sports and kids. He will be sorely missed."

Excell said while he will not miss legislative battles, hearings and the growing controversies, he will miss the games and the athletes very much.

"It was a dream fulfilled for me," Excell said. "I cannot think of a single position or career that I would have gained more satisfaction from than that of this employment."