Special Report to Blowing Rock News from the Sun Belt Conference. August 16, 2018. NEW ORLEANS, LA – Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Karl Benson announced on Thursday that he is stepping down from his position at the end of his current contract, which expires June 30, 2019.
Benson has held the post for the last six years.
“I have labored over this decision for several months, but I know that now is the right time to step aside from the Sun Belt and conclude my career as a commissioner and in intercollegiate athletics,” Benson said.
“I am very proud of what the Sun Belt has been able to accomplish since starting here in 2012. I greatly appreciate the leadership that the Presidents, Chancellors and Athletics Directors have provided both myself and the Sun Belt staff. They give us the needed support to drive the Conference’s existing members and new members to the next level.”
“Karl has dedicated himself to pushing the Sun Belt to the strongest possible place within intercollegiate athletics,” said Sun Belt and Georgia State President Dr. Mark P. Becker. “The Conference has come a long way over the past six years due to his leadership and the strong team that he has built at the Conference office. Thanks to Karl, the conference is thriving and positioned for even greater success. The Sun Belt membership is thankful for the transformational leadership that he has provided.”
Benson was named the fifth Commissioner of the Sun Belt Conference on February 16, 2012. During his tenure, the league has enjoyed significant accomplishments:
- Increased revenue distribution to membership by 2,000%
- Realigned its structure with six institutions being added to the league
- Regionalized its footprint with two member institutions in Alabama, Arkansas, the Carolinas, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas
- Repurposed the Sun Belt’s brand and marks
- Developed three additional bowl games to bring a total of five games for the Conference
- Added a Sun Belt Football Championship Game and a divisional structure for the sport
- Moved the Conference office headquarters to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome
- Moved the location of the Conference Basketball Championships to New Orleans
- Signed a multimedia rights extension with ESPN through 2028
- Joined an officiating consortium with the SEC for the sport of football that includes collaborative instant replay
- Joined a multi-conference officiating consortium for baseball, softball, women’s soccer, men’s basketball and women’s basketball
- Established a men’s basketball strategic plan aimed at bettering the Sun Belt’s profile through a unique regular season scheduling model and reimagined postseason championship
- Reached multi-year agreements for baseball, indoor track & field and women’s soccer championships at neutral sites
Benson came to the Sun Belt after serving as the Commissioner of the Western Athletic Conference since 1994.
During his time at the WAC, Benson developed numerous multi-year agreements with postseason football games while also serving on the NCAA Management Council from 1999-2002 and a five-year term on the NCAA Men’s Basketball Committee from 2002-06.
Prior to his time at the WAC, Benson served as the Commissioner of the Mid-American Conference for four years. There, he implemented several innovative projects and was instrumental in the formation of the Las Vegas Bowl.
Prior to taking the reins of the MAC, Benson served on the NCAA staff for more than four years until selected as MAC Commissioner.
Benson is the only individual to have ever served as the Commissioner of three FBS/Division I-A conferences.
Benson’s time with the NCAA began in January 1986 as a compliance representative and was then appointed Assistant Director of Championships in June 1987. He was promoted to Director of Championships in 1988. In that position, Benson actively supervised eight assistant directors in their administration of 68 NCAA championships.
A native of the state of Washington, Benson graduated from high school in Pullman in 1970, attended Spokane Falls Community College and then received a Bachelor of Science degree in physical education from Boise State University in 1975.
Benson played baseball at both Spokane Falls and Boise State before serving as the baseball coach at Fort Steilacoom Community College in Tacoma, Wash., for six years and as the Director of Athletics at Fort Steilacoom from 1979-84. From 1984-86, he was an assistant baseball coach and an administrative assistant in the athletics department at Utah.
Benson was born on December 1, 1951 and has been married to Sarah Glaza since October 2016. His daughter Jessica, 26, is a 2014 graduate of the University of Southern California with a degree in Broadcast Journalism. She is currently a Sports Anchor and Reporter for WATN-TV, an ABC affiliate in Memphis.
“From the day I graduated from Boise State University in 1975, I have gotten up each morning to go to work in this great profession we call college sports,” Benson said upon reflection. “First as young baseball coach at my alma mater, then as an athletics administrator on a university campus, then the NCAA national office, and for the past 28 years working as the commissioner for three FBS conferences.”
Benson, now 66, will move back to Denver where he lived for 18 years while serving as the Commissioner of the WAC.
“When I took the job with the Sun Belt in 2012, I looked at it as a five to seven year assignment and knew I would return to Denver when it was over. When Sarah and I were married in October 2016, that pretty much ‘sealed the deal’ and once I completed my current contract, I knew it would be the right time for me to step aside and let the next commissioner put their stamp on the next era for the Sun Belt.”
About the Sun Belt Conference
Entering the second decade of the new millennium, the Sun Belt Conference continues to challenge itself, and its competitors, in all aspects of intercollegiate athletics. Not content with being simply the youngest football conference in the Football Bowl Subdivision, the conference has shown that it can rise each and every season that comes along. And since the birth of the league as an FBS member in 2001, the evidence is clear that the conference is indeed rising above competitors and peer conferences.
The Sun Belt finished second in bowl winning percentage among all 10 FBS conferences the last two seasons. Reaching back to the 2014 season, no conference has a better total bowl winning percentage (.611) than the Sun Belt. All that success comes as the 2018 season will see the conference split into East and West divisions for the first time and stage its first-ever championship game at the end of the regular season on December 1, 2018.
Appalachian State, Arkansas State, Coastal Carolina, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Louisiana, ULM, South Alabama, Texas State and Troy give the league 10 football members. Little Rock and UTA compete as Sun Belt members in sports other than football.
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