Ten years after her graduation from Ironwood Ridge in 2013, Marissa Gendron is already at her second college as an athletics administrator.
Her recent promotion is a significant one that indicates she is one of the rising standouts in the compliance field.
Last week, she went from being an associate director of athletics compliance to a director of compliance at Texas Tech.
The promotion came 18 months following her move to Lubbock, Texas, with her husband after she was Northern Colorado’s assistant director of compliance.
“It’s aligning perfectly,” Gendron said when asked how this move fits in with her career goal to be a high-level college athletics administrator. “I am working my way up and continuing to learn as much as possible within compliance in general at Texas Tech. Hopefully, I will continue to grow from there.”
The former Marissa Baca achieved a state championship in tennis in 2013 with Ironwood Ridge, culminating a career in which she was a captain all four of her years playing for coach Bill Little with the Nighthawks.
Her combined singles and doubles career record at Ironwood Ridge was 131-13, a winning percentage of 90.9. She went on to be a successful doubles performer in tennis at Northern Colorado.
Gendron earned her Bachelors in English Liberal Arts with a minor in Spanish in May 2017 and her Masters in Sports and Exercise Science: Sport Administration in December 2018.
She made the switch to compliance full-time in May 2019 after serving two years as Northern Colorado’s assistant women’s tennis coach.
She was an interim assistant athletic director for compliance for four months before her elevation to full-time assistant director of compliance in September 2019.
“I definitely didn’t know what the future held 10 years ago (at Ironwood Ridge),” she said. “Looking back, it’s cool to see where I am now and kind of know that this was maybe the direction I wanted to go but just didn’t really know it yet back then.”
Texas Tech hired Gendron in July 2021 as one of the associate directors for athletics compliance under Jennifer Brashear, the school’s senior associate athletics director for compliance & strategic initiatives.
Brashear remains in that role and Texas Tech has two associate athletic directors for compliance services. Then comes Grendon and another director of compliance position.
Gendron said she applied at Texas Tech in order to broaden her horizons within the compliance field.
“You’re more in the spotlight because you’re at a higher-level conference,” she said of moving from Northern Colorado to Texas Tech. “There’s more eyes on you. The NCAA is looking at you a little bit harder. You kind of do have to be on top of your game. You have to know what you’re doing and how to handle different situations that come up to make sure our teams aren’t getting in trouble.
“We’re preventing any sort of violations from happening. I would say it’s added pressure, for sure, but in a good way.”
It’s only a matter of time for the 27-year-old Gendron to run her own compliance department. She’s well on her way, working at a high-level position at a Power 5 school less than three years after earning her master’s degree.
“I love compliance, so my goal would be to stay within compliance and not necessarily be the head of an athletic department,” she said. “I want to definitely keep climbing the ladders of compliance and be an associate athletic director for compliance.”
Her father Bruce Baca is a promoter of the youth sports in the Tucson area as evidenced by his sponsorship of a team in the Tucson Summer Pro League for Kids. He presents himself as a realtor and community leader in his Web site. “The family is committed to improving the economic conditions for all people of our community,” it says.
Her mother Flo Baca is employed by the Amphi School District and has been an active member of Project Graduation and the Project Grad Business Breakfast for more than 10 years.
“I’m just a really hard worker,” Gendron reasons for her relatively rapid rise. “I go day by day and complete what I have to get done and it definitely doesn’t go unnoticed there (at Texas Tech).
“I ask a lot of questions. That’s really important because while moving up there’s still a lot of stuff that I don’t know. There’s my bosses ahead of me who have much more experience than me. I take that as a challenge to try and learn as much as possible and I think they see that.”
ARIZONA COACHING PRESENCE AT OPEN DIVISION CHAMPIONSHIP
Arizona State may have a recruiting edge hosting the state football championships yearly in 4A through the Open Division, including the Sun Devil coaching staff speaking with Phoenix-area teams at Sun Devil Stadium the day before the championship.
A snapshot I will remember from last year’s 5A state championship game at Sun Devil Stadium that included Salpointe Catholic playing Scottsdale Horizon was former Arizona State coach Herm Edwards and his coaching entourage — it looked like that — including Antonio Pierce following him on the sidelines.
Arizona had some pushback on Saturday night during the Open Division championship between Basha and Saguaro.
Jedd Fisch’s assistants, including Chuck Cecil and Scottie Graham, were on hand watching the game from the sidelines.
BASHA QB WILLIAMS HAS LOCAL TIES
Among the players Cecil and Graham wanted to notice them on the sidelines included Basha quarterback Demond Williams Jr., who completed 14 of 18 passes for 174 yards in the 28-21 win over Saguaro.
Williams is a high-profile Class of 2024 dual-threat quarterback whose father was part of Jeff Scurran’s bowl championship team at Pima College in 2004. He came to Tucson from Jackson (Ala.) High School.
Williams Sr. was a cornerback for the Aztecs who went on to play with the special teams unit at Michigan State.
He was the athletic supervisor for Tucson’s La Paloma Academy, Glendale’s Heritage Elementary School and Liberty Traditional Charter School in Phoenix and Douglas 10 years ago before coaching at the high school level in the Phoenix area.
ALYSSA BROWN “TUCSON GOOD” AND PROUD OF IT
The terminology “Tucson good” has a negative connotation with it because it implies that an athlete is good for these parts but not elsewhere.
Sahuaro High School graduate Alyssa Brown has mentioned before how proud she is growing up in Tucson and playing for the Cougars under the legendary Steve Botkin.
Former @SahuaroHoops standout @alyssajb_23 making her second consecutive start today for @UNLVLadyRebels in the 76-66 win at Hawaii. Brown six points and seven rebounds in 31 minutes. UNLV 9-1 with Brown, a sophomore, averaging 8.7 points and 6.6 rebounds a game. pic.twitter.com/KFMPQenjTa
— Javier Morales (@JavierJMorales) December 12, 2022
The 6-foot-1 sophomore is flourishing at UNLV in primarily a role of the first player off the bench, although she has started the last two games for the Rebels in place of injured power forward Nneka Obiazor.
Brown had a career-high 18 points and 13 rebounds in her first collegiate start at Hawaii-Hilo in a 77-74 win on Wednesday.
She finished with six points and seven rebounds in Sunday’s start at Hawaii, won by the Rebels 76-66.
In a recent AZ Injury Law AllSportsTucson.com podcast, Botkin mentioned that Brown volunteers to be an assistant coach during the Cougars’ summer-league games.
She had an important message the summer before her freshman season at UNLV for players who were contemplating a move to compete at a prep school in the Phoenix area instead of finishing their careers with the Cougars.
“The greatest story I have of Alyssa isn’t even about playing,” said Botkin, who is at 597 wins in his 28-year head coaching career. “I had a phone call from someone who said, ‘Hey, watch out, some of your girls on your squad are being recruited by a prep-school coach and there are some prominent players from Tucson who are going to be playing for this prep school.’
“The phone call came in at 9 in the morning and we had a 10 o’clock a.m. practice. I said something to Alyssa and Alyssa said, ‘Can I have that moment? Can I talk to the girls?’ I said, ‘Absolutely, it’s all yours.’ Having that trust in her, she got up in front of … 28 girls in the auxiliary gym and I’ll never forget it. She said, ‘For those of you thinking about leaving to a prep team, the decision is yours, obviously, but I’m going to tell you some reasons why you shouldn’t go.’ She said, ‘What happened to the old be true to your school? You want to be part of a community. You want to be part of a school. You want the feel of having people in the stands and your friends in the stands.’ She went on and on and on … She turned to me and said, ‘One of the best things I ever did was play for Coach.’ She started crying and I started welling up with tears.”
HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL IN TUCSON AREA HAD DOWN YEAR BUT NOT DIMINISHED
No teams from the Tucson area played in the state championship games in the 4A through Open Division levels this year, making high school football in this area an easy target for criticism.
How soon they forget that CDO advanced to the 4A semifinals and came an overtime away at remote Snowflake from reaching the championship game despite playing most of the season without six suspended starters under coach Dustin Peace, who from the start of the season said this year’s team was championship caliber.
Short memories phase out Salpointe’s appearance in the 5A title game last season.
Despite the Lancers losing quarterback Treyson Bourguet to graduation, the Lancers advanced to the 6A quarterfinals this season. They lost 14-10 at eventual state champion Highland after leading 10-7 at halftime.
I’ve reported on high school football beginning in 1985, when I graduated from Sunnyside High School.
I know coaches of the past such as Vern Freidli, Howard Breinig, Scurran and Todd Mayfield, etc., are elite, but the amount of quality coaches presently dwarfs the amount of tremendous coaches back then.
It’s not even close.
These are the coaches who could be considered coach of the year material this season — Peace, Eric Rogers at Salpointe, Braden Davis of St. David, Ernest Ivy of San Manuel, Jay Dobyns of Tanque Verde, Eric Hjalmarson of Willcox, Kent Middleton of Pusch Ridge, Ryan McBrayer of Sabino, Pat Nugent of Mica Mountain, Corey Noble of Walden Grove, Daniel Sainz of Catalina Foothills, Al Alexander of Sahuaro, Jake Allen of Pueblo, Phillip Steward of Marana, Thomas Romack of Sunnyside, Justin Argraves of Cienega, Robert Bonillas of Desert View and Joseph Thomas of Buena.
None of them are a reach.
While it’s true that Tucson has only two state championship teams in the last 10 years — the 2013 Lancers and 2015 Pusch Ridge Lions — football here is not diminished.
No. It’s in a state of flux after the pandemic.
If COVID-19 did not occur in 2020, Nugent would have coached Cienega deep into the 5A state playoffs and challenged for a state title, no question. He had 14 seniors on that team that went on to play in college the following year.
The shallow thinker looks at what might seem obvious, but does not think deep about this situation — schools in Phoenix proper are not contending for state championships regularly, either. The newer schools outside the Phoenix city limits are the most successful because of the affluent areas of which the high schools are located. Population in those areas is abundant.
Southern Arizona is seeing the same development with the best teams routinely being on the outskirts such as the Vail schools (Cienega and Mica Mountain), Walden Grove in Sahuarita, Marana, Pusch Ridge and CDO in Oro Valley and Sabino in the far northeast. Salpointe, a private school, is traditionally strong.
A lot can be learned from these schools and their communities about how to develop success through the support of the school districts and families and businesses in their areas.
My thing is instead of habitually criticize that high school football in Tucson might be on the skids, be constructive and highlight, for example, the fact that inner-city Palo Verde did not have to forfeit or cancel any games this season after canceling its varsity season last year because of a low turnout of players after the pandemic.
That achievement — and it is very much an achievement — means that first-year Palo Verde coach Jamal Chatman, his coaches and his players are to be commended. A building block is in place.
I visited more than 90 percent of the 36 campuses in Southern Arizona this high school season for previews, game stories and player-of-the-week celebrations.
I am never going to trash the efforts of 14- to 17-year-olds and their capable coaches around here after seeing their meaningful work first-hand.
I can’t fathom someone being absent from games and practices all year and then feeling entitled to blindly criticize what’s going on with high school football overall around here.
Many young prospects will be highly recruited next year such as QB Cameron Hackworth and the Berryhill brothers (WRs Shamar and Savaughn) at Sabino, QB Bubba Mustain at Pusch Ridge, DE Elijah Rushing, OT Luis Cordova, TE/DE Keona Wilhite and RB/LB Nate Spivey at Salpointe, OT/DT Sa’Kylee Woodard and RB Kayden Luke at CDO among many others.
Football in Southern Arizona in 2023 anyone?
PREVIOUS PETROGLYPHS AST NOTEBOOKS
FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER!
ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District.