COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Though his travel schedule figures to be much less glamorous, Jim Scherr should be able to go to work each day without having to watch his back.
The former leader of the U.S. Olympic Committee was introduced as commissioner of the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference on Wednesday, a job sure to be filled with its share of threats and challenges, though almost certainly not so many from within his own office.
"One of the nice things about this position is that everyone's on the same page about where they want to take the conference," Scherr said. "From that perspective, it's a nice feeling."
Scherr was guiding the USOC through a period of success after years of turmoil when he was unexpectedly pushed out in 2009 — a move engineered by the board of directors, one of whom, Stephanie Streeter, ended up getting his job. The CEO position has since been filled by Scott Blackmun and things have calmed down at the USOC. But at the time of Scherr's departure, critics said it was an inside job that sullied the reputation of the USOC, which had tried numerous reform attempts over the years.
Scherr started his own marketing company, which had some success, but he'll step down as CEO there to concentrate on the hockey job.
Not that the new position doesn't have its own share of potential traps.
In moves that mirrored the seismic shifts in college football, but on a smaller level, college hockey has been realigning. Last year, the Big Ten decided to start a hockey conference and poached Minnesota and Wisconsin out of the 60-year-old WCHA. That left teams such as Colorado College and Denver — small schools that support large hockey programs — scrambling as they decided whether to salvage the WCHA, find a new home in an existing conference or create something completely new.
Their choice: the new NCHC, which also includes Miami (Ohio), Minnesota-Duluth, Nebraska-Omaha, North Dakota, St. Cloud State and Western Michigan. The conference begins play in the 2013-14 season.
The 50-year-old Scherr conceded everyone in the new conference must pay attention to the changing landscape in college sports.
"Given the fact that nobody knows where the world of collegiate sports will go three to five years from now, you always have to be cognizant of the fact that there could be potential additions or realignment," he said. "I think we're pretty satisfied with where we are today."
Of course, if there's any intrigue or maneuvering to be done — well, Scherr is well-versed in that. A former Olympic wrestler, who served as executive director of USA Wrestling before coming to the USOC, he has spent most of his adult life in Olympic circles. As leader of the USOC, he had to deal with the intricate politics of the international Olympic movement, to say nothing of the machinations in his own office.
"He's been in real important sports positions for 20 years where you've got to herd cats, got to organize volunteers, got to get people to follow in the direction you want them to go," said Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey who serves on the USOC board. "He's done that, especially in the last 10 years, at the national and international level. He comes with a hell of a Rolodex, a hell of a network of friends."