Dec. 7—His official start date may be in April, but new Summit League Commissioner Josh Fenton has made clear he's jumping into his new conference role immediately hands-on.
"I am active now and will be even more active in the New Year in Summit League business," Fenton said during an introductory press conference Tuesday. "I will be very, very active, along with our interim commissioner ... that we ensure the Summit League is well-positioned nationally as we get into the New Year and the changing landscape across the NCAA."
In official title terms, Fenton will serve as a special consultant to the Summit League, starting Jan. 1, 2022, until he takes over permanently on April 11, 2022, at which time he will conclude his tenure as commissioner of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, a role he's held since July 2013.
But with the nature of the quick-changing landscape of college athletics, specifically the transactions of conference membership, Fenton doesn't necessarily have the time to slowly ease into his new role of the 10-member league.
"I am active now and will be very active in conversations moving forward," said Fenton, who's taking over for the retiring Tom Douple. "This transition, albeit unique ... I don't want to give the thought that it's just NCHC business until early April. It's heavily Summit business.
"There's a transition aspect to the NCHC I'm responsible for for the next two months. As it relates to the existing (Summit) membership or new opportunities, as we look at what Summit membership will be into the future, you can guarantee that I'm going to be active in discussions with stakeholders to ensure the Summit League is well-positioned for the future."
In order to address the potential additions or subtractions to conference membership, Fenton said his first order of business is to hold conversations with the stakeholders of existing member schools to reaffirm their commitment to membership. Secondly, he wants to hold conversations with member schools to facilitate a strategic discussion about future opportunities.
"As we've seen over the past few months, the conference landscape and conference membership are changing quite regularly," Fenton said. "As we think about opportunities, we need to think about what adds value to the conference."
Fenton said he isn't overly concerned with reaching an odd or even number of membership schools. He feels there are adequate scheduling models for either setup.
"I do think there's something about strength in numbers that you're seeing conferences look at over the past couple of months," Fenton said.
The league currently includes full-time members UND, North Dakota State, South Dakota, South Dakota State, Nebraska Omaha, Denver, Western Illinois, Kansas City, St. Thomas and Oral Roberts.
"I think (the Summit League) is a sleeping giant," Fenton said. "I think it can be a premiere preeminent conference across the Division I landscape. I think there are strengths in the membership foundation. I think we have schools committed to the Division I student-athlete experience at the highest level, and I think we have the most passionate, engaging fans in our markets."
Fenton has familiarity with UND, Omaha and Denver through his time with the NCHC. He said he's familiar with the rest of the Dakota members having grown up in Litchfield, Minn.
Prior to his time as NCHC commissioner, Fenton was senior associate athletic director at Miami (Ohio). He also holds a finance degree from Iowa State.