Summit League names Fenton as new commissioner

Sports

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (SUMMIT LEAGUE) – The Summit League’s President’s Council announced Josh Fenton as the sixth Commissioner in the 40-year history of the League Friday.

Fenton will take over the leadership of the 10-member conference from Tom Douple, who retired in October after serving as commissioner for 16 years.

Fenton will serve as a special consultant to the League, starting on January 1, 2022, until he takes over on a permanent basis on April 11, 2022, at which time he will conclude his tenure as commissioner at the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. He has served in that role since July of 2013, taking over that position just before league competition began later that fall.

“As current Chair of The Summit League President’s Council, I am excited to welcome Josh Fenton to the Commissioner role. I have known and worked with Josh for several years through the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, and I believe he is the perfect fit for The Summit League at such an extraordinary time in the history of college athletics,” University of Denver Chancellor Dr. Jeremy Haefner said.

“Josh brings great character, strategic leadership experience and strong work ethic to this opportunity. I look forward to working with him as we create a bold vision for The Summit League.”

During what will culminate in a nine-year run with the NCHC, Fenton was responsible for the general oversight of an upstart conference that has already produced 27 NCAA Tournament teams, 12 combined Frozen Four appearances and four National Champions.

“I am humbled and incredibly grateful to The Summit League Presidents and Chancellors for this outstanding opportunity to lead a great group of institutions during a period of unprecedented change in collegiate sports,” Fenton said. “With a committed membership and bold thinking, I believe the League is well positioned to be an elite conference across the NCAA Division I landscape.

“With already a strong foundation among the membership, a high commitment to the Division I student-athlete experience, and passionate fan bases, we will use these strengths to enhance student success experiences, while elevating The Summit League profile and brand across collegiate sports.”

Off the ice, there have been numerous achievements by the NCHC that were a direct result of Fenton’s leadership. One of the most recent successes was a ‘one of kind’, NCHC Pod, which was designed and executed to allow for safe competition for its members during the Covid-19 pandemic. Through the first three weeks of last December, all eight NCHC teams traveled to Omaha, Neb., where they combined to play 38 games and, more importantly, had zero active Covid-19 infections detected among Tier I personnel throughout the duration of the event after executing over 3,000 tests.

Fenton negotiated a five-year agreement to move the conference’s tournament championship, known as the Frozen Faceoff, to the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., which began with the 2018 event and runs through 2022. During that first year, the Frozen Faceoff surpassed all prior year’s attendance, tickets sold and revenue figures.

Beyond the creation of NCHC.tv, which is a direct-to-consumer integrated digital video platform that streams NCHC games and has grown in subscription revenue by 285 percent since it started in 2014-15, Fenton has also negotiated numerous linear TV partnerships to gain national and regional exposure for the conference and its member institutions. The NCHC currently has one of the few national TV network deals for college hockey with CBS Sports Network.

Fenton has also been keenly focused on student-athlete well-being initiatives recently. He led the formation of the NCHC’s student-athlete well-being task force, which aims to provide resources and programming on well-being topics faced by student-athletes. Fenton also recently led an initiative for the conference to develop a partnership with RISE, a national non-profit focused on educating athletes on racial equity and social justice

Nationally, Fenton has made a significant impact on the sport of ice hockey. He currently serves as the Chair of the Hockey Commissioners Association and has worked with others across the game to institute a new overtime standard, adjusted recruiting rules to alleviate early recruiting, and the development of the College Hockey for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee.

Fenton also brings familiarity to several Summit League campuses as the NCHC’s membership includes three current institutions that are also members of the League. That trio includes the University of Denver, the University of Nebraska Omaha and the University of North Dakota.

Prior to taking on his current role with the NCHC, Fenton was a key visionary in the formation of the conference while serving as the senior associate athletic director for finance and administration at Miami (Ohio) University, which is a charter member of the conference.

During his final year with the RedHawks, Fenton was responsible for the assessment and management of the athletic department’s $21 million annual budget.

He also served two years as the associate athletic director for external relations prior to his final promotion. In that role, the department saw 20-percent increases in football season ticket sales and a 65-percent increase in overall football revenue under his watch.

In just over a decade at Miami, Fenton’s duties were numerous as he gained valuable experiences in athletic administration. Those ranged from coaching, strategic planning, sport administration, corporate relations and game operations while dealing with a wide variety of sports.

A native of Litchfield, Minn., Fenton received a bachelor’s degree in finance in 2001 from Iowa State University where he was a member of the men’s golf team for one year. He earned his master’s degree in sport studies from Miami in 2004. His family, includes his wife, Lindsay, and three sons: Ryan (12), Luke (10) and Drew (6).

Summit League Deputy Commissioner Myndee Kay Larsen will continue to serve as the interim commissioner until Fenton’s start date in April.

Commissioner Fenton’s first availability to discuss the announcement with the media will be via a Zoom press conference on Tuesday at 11 a.m. CT. Media members please reach out to Ryan Powell, Assistant Commissioner for Communications at The Summit League, for those details (powell@thesummitleague.org).

What They Are Saying About Josh Fenton
South Dakota State President, Barry Dunn
“Josh emerged as the ideal person to lead The Summit League from a group of highly-qualified candidates. He is a sitting commissioner of a very successful conference and has a bold vision for The Summit League.

“Back in 2013, he had a similar vision for the NCHC and delivered on that in impressive fashion. He is an inspiring leader who impressed both the search committee and the presidents during this process.

University of Denver Vice Chancellor for Athletics, Recreation and RC Operations, Karlton Creech

“It has been my pleasure to work with Josh in his role as NCHC Commissioner.  Josh is the consummate professional and I’m excited about the strategic vision and leadership he will provide for The Summit League.  The future of The Summit League is in very capable hands and I look forward to working with Josh alongside all of my Summit League colleagues.”

North Dakota State University Senior Woman Administrator, Colleen Heimstead
“Josh has a dynamic personality and runs the gamut on the characteristics that we were looking for to move The Summit League forward. From student-athlete well-being initiatives, to building and growing a brand, plus his financial background, he has dealt with all of it and done that from a commissioner’s chair. So, I’m excited to see what he has in store for our membership.”

University of Nebraska Vice Chancellor/Director of Athletics, Trev Alberts
“The Summit League has made a tremendous hire in Josh Fenton. I saw first-hand what he did to make the NCHC into the hockey conference power that it is and I know he will have the same drive, determination and vision with The Summit League. I’m happy for Josh and excited to see what all he will accomplish in his new role.”

NCAA Director of Championships and Alliances, Kristin Fasbender
“I’ve had the pleasure to work with Josh both during his time on campus at Miami and in his role as Commissioner of the NCHC and his passion for college athletics and student-athletes is what makes him a terrific administrator. All of that has been evident through the evolution of the NCHC into a premier hockey conference and that’s due in large part to his leadership. The Summit League has made a great hire.

About The Summit League
Through 39 years of Division I athletics, The Summit League offers 19 championship sports and has a combined enrollment of around 100,000 at 10 institutions, including five located in top 60 U.S. metropolitan populations and two land-grant universities. Member institutions include: the University of Denver, University of Missouri-Kansas City, University of North Dakota, North Dakota State University, University of Nebraska Omaha, Oral Roberts University, University of St. Thomas, University of South Dakota, South Dakota State University and Western Illinois University. The Summit League was previously known as the Mid-Continent Conference before undergoing a rebrand in 2007. The Summit League has produced 15 NCAA National Champions with over 125 All-Americans and 100 Academic All-Americans including numerous student-athletes competing at the highest professional level.

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