After helping found the conference and providing more than seven years of service and support for the NCHC, former Colorado College director of athletics Ken Ralph has been selected as the recipient of the 2019 NCHC Distinguished Service Award.
Ralph, who is now the director of athletics at Maine, becomes the fifth person to receive the conference’s prestigious award.
“Like many others, Ken Ralph was instrumental in the NCHC’s formation and for much of the success attained to-date,” NCHC commissioner Josh Fenton said in a statement. “We are honored to provide Ken with the well-deserved 2019 NCHC Distinguished Service award.”
“It is a humbling experience to be honored in this way,” Ralph added. “I think back on the untold number of hours working on this league, dealing with the detractors, managing the pre-competition financing, preparing the legal paperwork, establishing bylaws, and all the heavy lifting we shared to make this happen. Until you have been through it, you can’t imagine the workload involved in building a league from scratch. I will always be indebted to the women and men who believed in this venture and put in the effort to make the NCHC a reality.”
While still performing his duties for Colorado College, Ralph’s work didn’t stop once the NCHC was officially established. He played a critical role in hiring Fenton to be the NCHC’s second commissioner, after inaugural commissioner Jim Scherr left only months before the NCHC was set to begin play.
In addition, Ralph served as the chair of the NCHC Athletic Council during the 2015-16 season, while being a member on the Board of Directors/Athletic Council from the conference’s founding.
Ralph also sat on the NCHC’s Advisory Committee from 2013 to 2017, serving as chair in 2015-16 and past-chair the following year. He was also involved on the NCHC’s Finance/Audit Committee and Conduct Committee, completing multi-year terms on both committees in 2017. Prior to becoming chair of the NCHC Athletic Council, Ralph served as treasurer and vice chair during the conference’s first two seasons of competition.
“Ken was a tireless force behind the formation of the NCHC from day one,” said CC interim director of athletics Greg Capell, who nominated Ralph for the award and worked under Ralph during his entire tenure at Colorado College. “Every night, he stayed at the office late. Every weekend he took work home. I will never forget the amount of time he spent, and the passion and leadership he displayed, to help move the conference from a concept to a reality.”
Before taking over at Colorado College, Ralph was the athletics director at Rensselaer. While at RPI, he was involved as the NCAA voted overwhelmingly in favor of amended legislation that permitted Division III institutions to continue granting financial aid to student-athletes who compete on their Division I teams. This legislation greatly affected Colorado College, which is a Division III school with Division I men’s hockey and women’s soccer, as it preserved those programs’ Division I status.
“I am thrilled to see the teams in the NCHC experiencing so much success on and off the ice,” Ralph said. “Forming the league was a risky proposition in a tradition-rich sport, but for these schools to keep their high profile in hockey it became a necessity. It’s very rewarding to see it work out.”
Ralph will be presented his NCHC Distinguished Service Award in person at the NCHC’s Annual Meeting with athletics directors, faculty athletics representatives and coaches held in Naples, Fla. on April 29.
PREVIOUS NCHC DISTINGUISHED SERVICE AWARD WINNERS
2016 – Bill Hybl, chairman and CEO of El Pomar Foundation
2017 – Ron Grahame, athletics director at Denver
2018 – Peg Bradley-Doppes, former Denver vice chancellor for athletics
2018 – Brian Faison, former North Dakota director of athletics