UND ATHLETICS: Faison says Kelley will be missed by his department
Brian Faison started as UND’s athletic director at nearly the same time that Robert Kelley started as the school’s president.
Through their tenures, UND transitioned from an NCAA Division II school to an NCAA Division I school, transitioned from the Great West Conference to the Big Sky Conference and from the Western Collegiate Hockey Association to the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.
Kelley, who announced his retirement Tuesday effective Jan. 14, worked hand-in-hand with Faison on all of the big developments in the athletic department.
Faison said that Kelley will be missed by his office.
“He was a great force for athletics,” Faison said. “He was very instrumental in making the transition to Division I. He has always been incredibly supportive of our student athletes. He and (his wife) Marcia were tremendous ambassadors for our programs, supporting our student athletes. It’s very unusual, in most instances, to have a president willing to spend that kind of personal time with them. That’s something we were very appreciative of.”
Faison also said that Kelley was instrumental in fundraising for the school and getting the High Performance Center launched.
“He is one of the reasons why the High Performance Center will get done,” Faison said. “I was just on a tour of it today with a group and he was there. He’s very involved and supportive.”
Kelley frequently attended UND sporting events, especially basketball. His wife, Marcia, notably danced with women’s basketball coach Travis Brewster at center court after the team clinched a spot in the NCAA tournament last year.
He also made trips to UND men’s hockey regionals to watch the team clinch Frozen Four berths. He recently played a role in expediting the hiring of Brad Berry after former coach Dave Hakstol left to be the head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers.
Faison stayed in close contact with Kelley on all of the athletic department’s major happenings, including the Division I transition and conference affiliation.
When asked whether Kelley’s decision to retire impacts how long he will stay at UND, Faison said: “We’ve still got things to do. We have great people here. Frankly, I’ve enjoyed my time. We’ll keep plugging away. We still have some things left to do for the program in my mind, not the least of which is opening the High Performance Center and starting on Phase 2. We’ll look forward to that.”
Faison also said he thinks Kelley has wrongly been tabbed as the person responsible for the loss of the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.
“It’s not fair,” Faison said. “The reality was that the NCAA, at the end of the day, held all the cards. We couldn’t operate as an independent.
“From the standpoint of having programs in a competitive environment, it’s something that had to be done. He had to see it through to its conclusion, and we’re getting there.”
More on UND President Robert Kelley's retirement:
- UND President Kelley retires, with a legacy of growth, criticism
- Social media reactions to Kelley's announcement
- UND athletics: Faison says Kelley will be missed by his department
- Grand Forks community leaders praise Kelley
- Survey gives UND admins, education dean poor marks for transparency