July 1, 2013 Updated: July 1, 2013 at 3:05 pm
An important behind-the scenes leader for the National Collegiate Hockey Conference is now the face of the league.
Longtime Miami administrator Josh Fenton was announced as the commissioner Monday morning, replacing inaugural leader Jim Scherr.
"He has been heavily involved with the work of creating the conference since the very beginning," North Dakota athletic director and league chairman Brian Faison said. "That background means the NCHC won't miss a beat in getting ready for our first season of competition."
Fenton begins work on July 15, 95 days before the new league begins play, but said he started forging relationships with key stakeholders already, including making a phone call to Bill Hybl of the El Pomar Foundation on Monday morning.
He will work out of Oxford, Ohio, where Miami is located, for the short term until moving into the league offices in Colorado Springs.
"I feel we are stepping into a situation where we will be very successful," he said. "My wife, Lindsay, and our two sons (Ryan 3, Luke, 1) are excited to immerse ourselves into the collegiate communities this great conference represents, including our new home in Colorado Springs."
Fenton replaces Scherr, the former CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee, who left after 18 months to become chief operating officer of the inaugural 2015 European Games.
The NCHC member schools are: Colorado College, Denver, Miami, Minnesota-Duluth, Nebraska-Omaha, North Dakota, St. Cloud State and Western Michigan.
CC athletic director Ken Ralph was pleased by the hire.
"He's got excellent administrative skills, excellent organizational skills, a strong, analytical mind and he is fully committed to this league," Ralph said.
Fenton, a finalist for the initial hiring, helped the new league land a TV contract with CBS Sports Network and secure the Target Center in Minneapolis for the 2014 postseason championship.
"There would be no NCHC without Josh Fenton," Boston College athletic director Brad Bates said. "He is a rising superstar in college athletics."
Fenton praised the work of director of hockey operations Joe Novak and office manager Verna Toller. His involvement so far should help him step into the role, he said.
"Hopefully that sets us off on the right foot as we head into the inaugural season," Fenton said. "The work Joe and Verna have already done puts us in a good position."
Unlike his predecessor, Fenton has a hockey background. The former high school hockey player joined Miami in 2002 as a volunteer assistant hockey coach while completing his master's degree in sports studies before moving up to associate athletic director for business and finance at Miami two years ago.
As associate AD, he managed a $21 million annual budget and oversaw men's ice hockey, football, field hockey and men's golf, which he played at Iowa State before graduating in 2001. He served as the school's representative with the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, assisted in bringing the 2014 regional to Cincinnati and secured Miami's participation in the recent outdoor Hockey City Classic in Chicago. The Litchfield, Minn., native serves on the NCAA rules committee.
"Josh has been a big part of Miami hockey for the last 12 years," Miami coach Rico Blasi said. "He is very dedicated and hard-working, and leads with detailed integrity and passion. He will be a huge asset to our conference."
The formation of the league was announced in July 2011 after the start of Penn State's Division 1 program, which prompted the other Big Ten schools to form a six-team conference that starts play this October. The subsequent conference realignments resulted in the demise of the CCHA, the move of Notre Dame in 2013 and UConn (2014) to Hockey East, and a new-look, 10-member Western Collegiate Hockey Association, which recently added independent Alabama-Huntsville.