Josh Fenton is in his fifth year as Commissioner of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC). He was originally hired to the position on July 1, 2013. Having completed the fourth competitive season in 2016-17, the conference has achieved a great deal. Fenton has guided the eight member institutions through a period of tremendous success while being recognized as one of the best conferences in all of college hockey.
Through four seasons with Fenton serving as Commissioner, NCHC member institutions have accomplished the following on the ice:
Over the 2016-17 season and throughout the off-season, the conference has made a great deal of progress. Under Fenton’s guidance two significant accomplishments in the NCHC’s young history occurred over the past year. The first was establishing a new partnership with Xcel Energy Center to move the NCHC’s conference tournament, Frozen Faceoff, to Saint Paul, Minn. Previously held in Minneapolis, Minn., Fenton led the NCHC member institutions through a 13-month process to analyze proposals and data while negotiating with venues to determine the future home of the conference’s tournament site. The NCHC will host the 2018 event at Xcel Energy Center, which is home to the National Hockey League’s Minnesota Wild.
The second significant accomplishment was a renewed commitment by the member institutions to aggregate the ice hockey streaming rights to the conference. As part of the process to continue aggregating rights to the conference, Fenton negotiated a 5-year extension with NeuLion, the technology partner for NCHC.tv. The extension of terms will greatly enhance the user experience through native apps in the iOS & Android environments, live game timeline markers, more Video-On-Demand content, continuation of Over-The-Top (OTT) apps on AppleTV and Roku, and a customized fan experience through customized content of a fan’s favorite school (social feeds, news and video).
Under Fenton’s leadership, NCHC.tv was created and has grown significantly since its inception in 2014-15. During the 2016-17 year more than 1,000 hours of NCHC video content was delivered to fans, with a 35 percent increase in hours of live streams consumed from a season ago. Live stream views in 2016-17 through 140 live events were up 84% from the previous season. NCHC.tv Subscriptions have increased more than 50% from the platform’s first year. NCHC.tv is widely recognized as one of the best direct-to-consumer, subscription based digital network in college athletics.
Complementing NCHC.tv is the conference’s broad television exposure. In 2016-17 Fenton helped the conference distribute 44 games through a national television outlet, a 10% increase from the previous year and over a 100% increase from 2013-2014. Fenton has been integral to developing partnerships with TV networks to gain national exposure for the conference and member institutions. The NCHC has one of college hockey’s only national TV network partnerships (CBS Sports). Fenton was integral to negotiating the conference’s first agreement with CBS Sports prior to the inaugural season in 2013-14. He renegotiated the agreement in May of 2017 to continue the partnership through 2018-19. Beyond CBS Sports, Fenton has developed other national relationships with FOX and the Sinclair Broadcasting Group (American Sports Networks). On a regional front, Fenton negotiated an agreement in 2015-2016 with Fox Sports North that has continued every year since. Recognized as an important market for the NCHC’s success, the FSN partnership has games distributed from either St. Cloud State or Minnesota Duluth.
With a new home coming in 2018, the conference’s tournament championship weekend (Frozen Faceoff) continues to grow. Throughout the first four years of Frozen Faceoff in Minneapolis, the attendance has averaged approximately 20,000 for the entire two-day event. Sponsorship revenue has averaged a 10% annual increase for four years. Fenton has also led a concerted effort to focus heavily on Student-Athlete and Fan Experience at the Frozen Faceoff. General Fan and Student-Athlete enhancements over the past four years have included better field-of-play conditions, a fan fest, an official post-game party, student-athlete gifts, an awards celebration, consistent digital engagement through the conference social channels and website, increased video-on-demand and live streaming through NCHC.tv, and national television audience watching through CBS Sports Network.
Other NCHC accomplishments under Fenton’s leadership have included:
During the NCHC’s inaugural year (2013-2014), the conference accomplished a great deal to conduct the first-ever season of competition. Having to develop almost everything from scratch, the conference staff and Fenton most notably created the conference website (NCHCHockey.com), named & executed the first conference tournament (Frozen Faceoff), secured new corporate partnerships, developed NCHC branding guidelines, designed and constructed conference championship trophies, instituted a national television agreement, formed an officiating program, launched the first college hockey conference app, and drafted and instituted all conference governance documentation.
Prior to becoming Commissioner, Fenton played an integral role in the formation and development of the conference, while leading NCHC Board meetings and assisting legal counsel in drafting documents to officially establish the conference. Fenton also helped negotiate with CBS Sports Network as the conference’s national broadcast partner, drafted the operating financial models, assisted in securing Target Center as the tournament championship site and served as the conference’s liaison on legal and financial matters.
Fenton has a wealth of intercollegiate athletics experience, previously serving as senior associate athletic director for finance and administration at Miami University prior to joining the NCHC. He was responsible for assessment and management of the athletic department’s $21 million annual budget, human resource operations, and was the sport administrator for men’s ice hockey, football, field hockey & men’s golf. Fenton served on the athletic director’s executive leadership team and was the athletic department’s liaison to the university president, vice-president for finance and university general counsel.
Fenton’s duties at Miami also included negotiation and management of department contracts, key prospect and donor relations, selling of naming rights, oversight of personnel management, and the supervising of strength & conditioning and equipment services areas. Specific to hockey, Fenton assisted in bringing the 2014 NCAA Ice Hockey Regional to Cincinnati, negotiated Miami’s participation in the 2013 Hockey City Classic at Soldier Field in Chicago, and led discussions to secure Bauer Hockey as the official team equipment supplier. He also represented Miami at Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) meetings, along with serving as a member of the NCAA Ice Hockey Rules Committee.
Fenton was appointed senior associate athletic director at Miami in 2012 after spending the previous two years as Miami’s associate athletic director for external relations. From 2010 to 2011, Miami saw a 20-percent increase in football season ticket sales and a 65-percent increase in overall football revenue. Additionally, Fenton was integral in developing the ticket sales strategies for the men’s hockey program, consistently selling out Steve Cady Arena since it opened in 2006. He was involved in donor strategies for numerous sports programs, resulting in over $3 million raised for scholarships, salaries and capital projects.
Fenton joined Miami in 2002 as a volunteer assistant hockey coach while completing his master’s degree. Upon completion of his degree, he was hired as the ice hockey program’s first director of hockey operations, while also doubling his time within the department’s sponsorship area as an assistant director of corporate relations. In 2006, Fenton was promoted to assistant athletic director where his focus was sport administration (ice hockey, men’s golf, baseball, volleyball, and field hockey) along with overseeing all department strategic planning.
In his service to the college hockey and local community, Fenton served on the NCAA Ice Hockey Rules Committee Member and is currently a member of College Hockey Inc. (CHI) and Hockey Commissioner Association (HCA) Boards. Recognized nationally among those in the sport, Fenton is currently leading efforts on behalf of college hockey & HCA with his involvement in the National Hockey League’s Development Summit Committee and Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Recruiting Committee. Locally, Fenton is serving the Colorado Springs community through his active role on the Colorado Springs Sports Corporation Board and 2018 U.S. Senior Open Fan Services Divisional Co-Chair.
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, which resides in Colorado Springs, includes his wife, Lindsay, and sons Ryan (8), Luke (6) and Drew (2).