By Jeff Murphy, July 5, 2023
University of Central Missouri President Roger Best was recently named chair of the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association CEO Council.
WARRENSBURG, MO – Demonstrating his commitment to strong academics and opportunities for student-athletes, University of Central Missouri President Roger Best is in a good position to share his passion for both, not only through his position at UCM, but also as the new chair of the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association (MIAA) CEO Council. Best was elected to the two-year post that began July 1, 2023, adding yet another leadership role to a career that has already had an impact on college athletes.
The election of the council chair took place during the council’s summer meeting on June 14. As chair, Best provides leadership for a group of university presidents representing 14 MIAA-member institutions from Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma. The CEO Council is charged with governance of the MIAA conference through budget oversight, policy setting and future planning.
Best has been a member of the MIAA CEO Council since he became UCM’s president in 2018, and has previous experience as the council’s vice chair, a position he held for the prior two years. He is the second-longest tenured leader of the group, and has also served on the council’s membership task force, risk management task force, and currently serves as the CEO Council representative to the newly created inter-conference Division II Football Alliance.
“I am grateful to serve as chair of the Council and fulfill the duties and responsibilities that come with this position,” Best said, noting these include leading at least two major meetings of the council each year. He will also work closely with the MIAA Commissioner as needed while assisting the CEO Council in considering the priorities established and recommendations made by other conference committees, while adhering to new constitutional provisions for the MIAA Conference that were adopted during the council’s January 2023 meeting.
“One of my roles as MIAA CEO Council Chair will be to help make sure we are following our new bylaws and constitution in terms of delegated authority,” he said. “The new constitution marks a major step of the conference in delegating authority to our committees. My job as chair will be to make sure that any business that comes before the CEO Council conforms to the requirements as set forth under the constitution.”
This won’t be the first time MIAA Commissioner Mike Racy and Best have had an opportunity to work closely together. Long before he began serving the MIAA, Racy worked at UCM in a position that included Vice President for Law, Policy and Strategy and General Counsel. Best, who was then serving as Dean of the Harmon College of Business and Professional Studies, engaged with him in many discussions related to strategic planning and risk management. As Commissioner, Racy has led and instituted numerous strategic initiatives designed to promote a positive environment for student athletes, the MIAA, and all of Division II, and he was the driving force behind the recent creation of the Division II Football Alliance.
“I look forward to working with Dr. Best in this leadership role for the conference,” Racy noted. “There has never been a more challenging time for the NCAA and intercollegiate athletics, and the MIAA school presidents are fortunate to have someone with Roger’s financial and strategic management backgrounds leading our organization.”
Best said the MIAA conference has undergone a number of changes such as the recent update of its constitution to mirror what is happening within the NCAA. “I appreciate the work of Steve Turner (Northeastern State), the outgoing CEO Council Chair, in leading efforts the last two years that position the MIAA conference and our member institutions to be exceptionally competitive and well-regarded. My job will be to ensure our meaningful work continues while maintaining a positive working relationship with the commissioner and the CEOs, all with the overriding goal of ensuring the MIAA remains the premier Division II conference in the country.”
He pointed out one of the immediate considerations for the CEO Council is related to membership. With Lincoln University announcing its plan to leave the MIAA conference, the council formally invited the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith to join the conference effective July 1, 2024. According to Best, “additional future expansion must be a consideration for the MIAA given the rapidly changing environment in intercollegiate athletics.”
Best’s MIAA post gives him an opportunity to have his finger on the pulse of a changing climate in the world of collegiate athletics. As a longtime supporter of the UCM Mules and Jennies, this is a role he believes is important to students athletes and the university, especially with UCM being one of the founding members of the MIAA in 1912.
He pointed out the changing landscape in NCAA involves some institutions moving outside their conferences, particularly in Division I. It also encompasses issues that have been created by name, image, likeness (NIL) legislation that has trickled into all divisions of collegiate athletics, in addition to issues related to the transfer portal and health and wellness initiatives.
Best has taken this changing landscape in intercollegiate athletics to heart in his leadership at UCM, as well. Challenges that face the MIAA and the NCAA played an important role in the decision to hire new Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Matt Howdeshell. With the passing of Jerry Hughes, who served at this post 40 years, the university was tasked with finding someone who could help navigate the university into a new era of intercollegiate athletics.
“The strong work of our search committee really made my job both easier and more difficult because I was presented with a group of finalists who were excellent,” Best said. “Among that group, Dr. Howdeshell stood out as someone who could bring significant experience, with drive, passion, relationship building, ideas and initiative to move us to even greater success among Division II institutions and ensure that we adapt successfully to the rapidly evolving environment that we find ourselves in today.”
Taking a rare homegrown approach to the university’s top leadership position, which led to opportunities to serve the MIAA, Best came to UCM in 1995 as an assistant professor of finance, and in the years that followed was promoted to full professor and served in various administrative roles including chair, associate dean, dean and vice president. Following three months of service as interim president, the Board of Governors demonstrated confidence in Best’s leadership and vision by appointing him president on Nov. 5, 2018.
Now, with 28 years of academic experience under his belt, Best also continues to take advantage of opportunities to ensure UCM continues to lead and influence Missouri higher education. On July 1, he began his second year of service as chair of the Council on Public Higher Education, adding to a growing and diversified portfolio of active leadership roles through which he is able to serve students both in and out of the classroom.