Is Miami morphing from “The Cradle of Coaches” to the “Cradle of Commissioners?”
That assessment might be a bit premature, but it doesn’t detract from the magnitude of Josh Fenton’s impending move from the RedHawks’ athletic administration into the role of National Collegiate Hockey Conference commissioner.
Fenton, Miami’s senior associate athletic director for finance and administration, was named on Monday as the replacement for Jim Scherr as commissioner of the fledgling conference, which is scheduled to start play with the 2013-2014 schedule and conclude with the postseason tournament at Minneapolis’s Target Center in March. Scherr left in May to become chief operating officer of the European Games.
Fenton’s first official day as commissioner is July 15, but he won’t have the luxury of waiting that long to get started. His “to do” list is lengthy.
“I have to work on developing relationships with key stakeholders, not to mention our partners at CBS Sports Network,” he said during a conference call on Monday afternoon, referring to the NCHC’s eight member institutions, the folks at the Target Center, key officials of the city of Minneapolis and other conference commissioners. “The first thing is relationships. The second thing in the process is ticket sales and licensing agreements, along with getting up to date with our internal documents.
“I do have a fairly good understanding of where we are with most projects,” he said. “A lot of my focus will be on how to create the best possible championship tournament at the end of the year.”
Fenton, 34, feels comfortable about his new job because he’s been up to his neck in the NCHC’s formation from the very start. The 2001 Iowa State graduate, who started at Miami in 2002 as a volunteer assistant hockey coach and earned his Master’s degree while working his way up through the administration, has been involved in everything from helping land CBS Sports Network as the conference’s national broadcasting partner to securing the Target Center as the tournament championship site.
“Josh brings solid administrative experience, an exceptional business mind, a real depth of knowledge of the workings of the NCHC and a passion for the game to the position of commissioner,” North Dakota Athletics Director and NCHC Chair Brian Faison said in a press release. “He has been heavily involved with the work of creating the conference since the very beginning. That background means the NCHC won’t miss a beat in getting ready for our first season of competition.”
Going to Minneapolis will be like going home for Fenton, a Minnesota native who says hockey is in his blood, even though he played golf at Iowa State. His love for hockey helped fuel his interest in becoming the NCHC commissioner.
“I’ve worked in the college athletic business for 11 years, and all 11 years have been at Miami,” said Fenton, who expects to remain in Oxford with his wife, Lindsay, and sons Ryan, 3, and Luke, 1, for a while before moving to Colorado Springs, Colo., where the conference offices are located. “When Miami went through the process of becoming a founding member of the conference, it came to the forefront of my mind.”