Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Mike Kemp Presented With NCHC’s 2024 Distinguished Service Award

Mike Kemp

For his work as an administrator at the University of Nebraska Omaha and ambassador of college hockey, the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) has honored Omaha Executive Associate Athletics Director Mike Kemp with the 2024 NCHC Distinguished Service Award. Kemp is retiring in May after a 48-year career in college athletics as a coach and administrator.

Kemp was bestowed with the NCHC Distinguished Service Award in person on Monday night, April 29, at the NCHC Annual Meeting dinner and reception at the Naples Grande Beach Resort. NCHC staff presented Kemp with the Distinguished Service Award with representatives from the entire membership in attendance.
While Kemp made a massive impact during his coaching career, his move to the ‘front office’ as an administrator was just influential. His biggest contribution to the NCHC, along with helping Omaha be a founding member of the Conference, is serving as the director of the NCHC Pod. In addition, Kemp has served on the NCHC’s Athletic Council during the entirety of the Conference (11 years).
“We are honored to present Mike with our Distinguished Service Award. He has been an important and influential dignitary in college hockey for many years,” said NCHC Commissioner Heather Weems. “As the first hockey coach at Omaha, he helped put the Mavericks on the map and has only continued to build the program in his administrative role. From serving as Chair of the Ice Hockey Championship Committee to hosting the NCHC Pod, Mike has always had the NCHC’s and college hockey’s best interest at heart. He is more than deserving of this award.”
Kemp played a major role in UNO’s Baxter Arena serving as the host venue for the NCHC Pod, which was held in Omaha in December of 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Kemp oversaw the unprecedented task of playing 38 NCHC games in 21 days with eight teams in one venue – something never done in any college sport – while helping complete it safely and successfully, which it was. From team arrivals, to locker room set-up and rotation, to practice and morning skate schedules, to venue operations and COVID-19 testing, Kemp had a hand in making sure the Pod was run smoothly while providing a secure environment for all.
In April 2021, Kemp was awarded the NCHC’s first Commissioner’s Award for his work in hosting and overseeing the NCHC Pod.
Kemp also served on the NCAA Ice Hockey Championship Committee for five years from 2017-22, including holding the role of Chair for two years in 2021 and 2022. While Chair, Kemp and his committee had to hand-select the 2021 NCAA Tournament field during the pandemic due to a lack of non-conference games and no Pairwise Ratings. He also had to adjust a regional location on short notice in 2021, while ensuring a safe and successful tournament. During his two years as Chair, Kemp presented the National Championship trophy to UMass (2021) in Pittsburgh and NCHC member Denver (2022) in Boston.
Along with coaching Omaha to its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance in 2006, Kemp also secured Omaha’s first on-campus arena in his position as a UNO administrator. He played a key role in the design and construction of Baxter Arena, which opened in 2015. The Mavericks announced on April 19 that the ice at Baxter Arena would be renamed 'Kemp Ice’ in honor of their first head coach.
"This is another honor to highlight the impactful career of Mike Kemp." said Adrian Dowell, Vice Chancellor / Director of Athletics at Omaha. "We are very appreciative to the NCHC for appropriately recognizing Mike's contributions over decades to not only UNO but also the conference and college hockey."
Kemp has been a part of the Omaha Mavericks’ family for 27 years, serving in multiple functions. He has been in his current role as Omaha senior associate AD for events and facilities since being promoted in March of 2019. Prior to that, he was an associate athletic director at UNO for 12 years, moving into that role in 2009 after completing a 12-year run as the program’s first head hockey coach. A member of the Omaha Hockey Hall of Fame and Omaha Sports Hall of Fame, Kemp helped start the Omaha hockey program in 1997, joining the staff in 1996. He now oversees UNO’s hockey program and Baxter Arena in his current position.
Kemp is the seventh recipient of the NCHC Distinguished Service Award, which is not necessarily bestowed upon someone annually, but is presented to an individual who has served, supported and promoted the goals and ideals of the NCHC and who, through personal effort and dedication, has enhanced the ability of the Conference and/or its member institutions to provide a positive experience for the stu­dent-athletes enrolled at NCHC member institutions.
The inaugural NCHC Distinguished Service Award was presented to Mr. Bill Hybl, the Chairman and CEO of El Pomar Foundation, in 2016, while former Denver Director of Athletics Ron Grahame received the honor in 2017. In 2018, Peg Bradley-Doppes, former University of Denver Vice Chancellor for Athletics, and Brian Faison, former University of North Dakota Director of Athletics, were co-honorees, both of whom were heavily involved in the founding of the NCHC, along with 2019 winner Ken Ralph, the former Colorado College Director of Athletics. The most recent recipient is nine-year NCHC Commissioner Josh Fenton, who received it in 2022 following his final season.
2016 – Bill Hybl, Chairman and CEO of El Pomar Foundation
2017 – Ron Grahame, former Athletics Director at University of Denver
2018 – Peg Bradley-Doppes, former University of Denver Vice Chancellor for Athletics
2018 – Brian Faison, former University of North Dakota Director of Athletics
2019 – Ken Ralph, former Colorado College Director of Athletics
2022 – Josh Fenton, former NCHC Commissioner

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