HELENA — Kent Paulson, commissioner of the Frontier Conference for the past 14 years, announced his retirement on Tuesday.
Paulson made the announcement during a press conference at Carroll College. He became Frontier commissioner prior to the 2009-10 academic year. He replaced Mike Walker, who served in the role from 2006-09, and was the longest-serving commissioner in league history.
“Kent’s leadership over the past 14 years has truly defined the Frontier Conference,” Carroll president and chair of the league's Council of Presidents, Dr. John Cech, stated in a press release. “He has worked tirelessly to serve the 10 institutions in four states which comprise the conference.
“The Council of Presidents, which I have the pleasure of leading, wanted to express our deep appreciation to Kent for his leadership, and we are honored to acknowledge his unwavering commitment to the conference by conferring upon him the title of Frontier Commissioner Emeritus.”
Paulson became the Frontier's sixth commissioner since 1979 at the time of his hiring, and is among a list of commissioners that includes George Bandy, Sonny Holland, Ron "Swede" Kenison, Barb Kenison, and Walker.
During Paulson's tenure, the Frontier maintained its reputation as a national power in the NAIA despite going from 12 full members across four states in 2012 to its current total of six in-state schools — Carroll College, Rocky Mountain College, Montana Western, Montana Tech, MSU-Northern and the University of Providence. (The College of Idaho, Southern Oregon and Eastern Oregon are football-only associate members, with Arizona Christian joining for football this year.)
Among the league's top team accomplishments during Paulson's tenure was UM Western winning the national championship in women's basketball in 2019.
Paulson's career highlights include the brokering of webcasting of conference events, an increase in corporate sponsorship, the development of a fall Media Day, the establishment of Frontier Conference scholarships presented through the Montana Coaches Association, the creation of the Ron “Swede” Kenison Award and the Frontier Conference Service Award.
He is the recipient of many awards including the MCA Outstanding Contributor Award, the MCA Distinguished Service Award, the NAIA Award of Merit and the NAIA Charles M. Morris Administrator of the Year award.
“Kent Paulson exemplifies all that is good about the NAIA, the Frontier Conference, and college athletics,” Jim Carr, President of the NAIA, stated in the release. “Kent has spent his entire professional career as a servant leader and has had a positive impact on countless students, coaches, and administrators. On behalf of the NAIA, I wish Kent and his wife Joan the best as they enjoy retired life with their family.”
Prior to taking over the conference, Paulson spent 14 years as an administrator at Whitefish High School — five as principal and nine as assistant principal. He also coached basketball at track and field at both Troy and Great Falls CMR. He also served as an MOA basketball official.
A search for Paulson’s replacement will begin immediately, with Carroll College president John Cech and Montana Tech chancellor Les Cook co-chairing the search.