New commissioner has RMAC to-do list
Graham says conference can improve travel, officiating, promoting student-athletes
Chris Graham was instrumental in bringing more notoriety to the NCAA Division III Midwest Conference.
He has plans to do that now for the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.
Graham was hired Thursday as the sixth RMAC commissioner in the conference’s 104-year history. He begins his duties Dec. 1.
“I was extremely impressed by how (the RMAC) embodied the Division II philosophy and the commitment to the student-athletes,” Graham said during a teleconference. “I’m excited to be a part of this group and hitting the ground running in December.”
Graham is in his 10th year as the executive director of the Midwest Conference in Ripon, Wis. Division III institutions don’t award athletic scholarships.
He was involved in policy making, technology, communications, officiating and marketing for the conference. The Midwest Conference became the first league in Division III to establish a conference-wide webcasting agreement providing live video of league contests.
“I think he’s an outstanding choice,” Colorado Mesa President Tim Foster said. “I love the Division III background. He understands where we are as a Division II program. He’s young and energetic.
“He built it by building a league from the ground up. He understands all the nuts and bolts. You want to make sure you have someone with the right moral compass.”
Graham said there are a lot of similarities between Division III and Division II that will help him make a smooth transition, adding the Midwest Conference sponsors many of the same sports.
Wrestling, he said to the best of his knowledge, is the only RMAC sport that the Midwest Conference doesn’t sponsor.
The top three issues Graham wants to address are recognizing student-athletes more, address membership and travel concerns and improve officiating.
He is pleased with Associate Commissioner Eric Danner’s weekly radio show and the monthly television segment, but said the RMAC can take advantage of the advancement in technology and communication.
“There are other things we can do to get our student-athletes front and center individually and as teams,” Graham said. “I’m interested in getting a little deeper into what these student-athletes are doing on campus and the other side of their careers and community service.”
Graham understands the RMAC faces membership issues with travel budgets and intends to alleviate those demands with 14 members in a four-state region spreading 1,100 miles from the farthest institutions.
“I’ve dealt with our own membership issues ups and down in the Midwest Conference,” he said.
“There is a potential for maybe more in the future. It’s always an act of discussion. We have a great span of geography for a Division III conference in the Midwest.
“We have approximately an eight-hour trip between our farthest institutions. My vision would be to continue working hard to alleviate any of those great demands on the institutions with time commitment and budget (problems) for travel.”
Membership won’t likely change in the next couple of years, he added, but he plans to have a discussion among the conference presidents about that topic.
Graham also plans to address officiating concerns in the conference.
“God bless officials and the effort they put in,” he said. “In my opinion, officiating is good, but there is always on opportunity to develop these individuals and help them aspire to working Division I and the professional levels.”
Graham replaces Joel R. Smith, who resigned in June to become the athletic director at Chadron State (Neb.) College. Smith was the RMAC commissioner for 12 years.
Danner has served as the interim commissioner since Smith’s resignation.