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Saturday, August 18, 2018
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Panelist Bio


Karl Benson
Commissioner of the Sun Belt Conference

Since being named the fifth commissioner of the Sun Belt Conference on February 16, 2012, Karl Benson has helped reinvigorate the Sun Belt with his optimism, energy and enthusiasm.

His vigor and forward thinking have often been called upon during his tenure – perhaps best exemplified when he hit the ground running in the spring of 2012. Benson quickly set the tone for the future of the Sun Belt Conference by adding Georgia State, UT Arlington and Texas State to the league after only being in his post for several weeks.

In May of 2012 Benson had begun to further shape the Sun Belt Conference by promoting the league’s rebranding efforts. Sure enough only a year later, the Sun Belt had unveiled a new logo and new mantra - “Together We Rise” - that is in line with that optimistic attitude that Benson has become so well-known for.

Further solidifying the place of the Sun Belt Conference, Benson helped lead the league to the additions of Appalachian State and Georgia Southern as all-sports members and Idaho and New Mexico State as football playing members. All four announcements took place throughout the course of the day on March 27, 2013.

In addition to strengthening the league through membership additions and rebranding efforts, Benson has been able to secure new homes for Sun Belt teams in the football postseason.

With the 2014-15 year marking the debut of the College Football Playoff (CFP) the Sun Belt continues to find itself among the 10 premier college football conferences and the new system is guaranteed universal access based on performance – there are no automatic qualifiers for the playoff system. Additionally, the CFP will mean that a spot among the premier bowl games of college football will be guaranteed to the highest-ranked champion from the other “Group of Five” conferences: the Sun Belt Conference, American Athletic Conference, Mountain West Conference, Mid-American Conference and Conference USA.

With the College Football Playoff included with the league’s other bowl arrangements, the Sun Belt Conference is tied to seven total bowl games. The R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, the GoDaddy Bowl, the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl, the Cure Bowl (debuting in 2015) all guarantee a home for a bowl eligible Sun Belt Conference team each year. And beginning with the 2016 season, the Sun Belt is also part of a rotation of conferences that will send a team to the Bahamas Bowl and the Miami Beach Bowl.

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, including the Holiday Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Copper Bowl, Las Vegas Bowl, Silicon Valley Football Classic, GMAC Bowl, New Mexico Bowl, the Humanitarian Bowl, Sheraton Hawai’i Bowl, Poinsettia Bowl and Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.

Under Benson’s leadership, the WAC achieved noted success by sending multiple teams to Bowl Championship Series (BCS) games as well as having sent a total of 38 teams to bowl games since 2001.
Benson served 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 where he was the director of NCAA championships when selected as MAC commissioner.

Benson joined the NCAA staff in January 1986, as a compliance representative and was 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. He has also completed course work toward his master’s degree in athletics administration at the University of Utah.

Benson played baseball at both Spokane Falls Community College and Boise State University before serving as the baseball coach at Fort Steilacoom Community College in Tacoma, Wash., for eight 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.

He received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Boise State in April of 2006. Benson is also a member of the Spokane Falls and Fort Steilacoom Halls of Fame.

Benson was born on December 1, 1951 and has one daughter, Jessica, 22, a recent graduate of the University of Southern California – where she majored in broadcast journalism in the Annenberg School of Communication.

Current Topic


     08/18 - The Power of Reading

How can we make inroads to improve adult literacy in Louisiana and champion a joy of reading from pre-school into adulthood?
The ability to read sets the foundation of who we are and what we can be. Through reading we expand our world, learn new things and increase our base of knowledge. In fact, a parent’s reading level is the greatest factor in a child’s academic success. Children who can’t read proficiently by the third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school.

In Louisiana, 20 percent of adults are illiterate – five points higher than the national rate. How is Louisiana combatting its illiteracy problem across generational lines? How can we make inroads to improve adult literacy in Louisiana and champion a joy of reading from pre-school into adulthood?

Louisiana Public Square: The Power of Reading looks for answers and explores the value of lifelong reading through the lens of the PBS series The Great American Read Wednesday, August 22 at 7pm on LPB and in New Orleans on WLAE. (Recorded Tuesday, August 14 in the Magnolia Performing Arts Pavilion at Baton Rouge Community College.)

Our panelists are:
- Linda-Marie Barrett, Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA)
- Rebecca Hamilton, MLIS; Louisiana State Librarian
- Danny Heitman; Journalist and Louisiana author
- Miranda Restovic, Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities (LEH).
- Gary Robertson; Adult Literacy Advocates

The program features interviews with John Cavalier, owner of Cavalier House Books; Gary Robertson, Executive Director of Adult Literacy Advocates; representatives from the LEH PRIME TIME intergenerational reading program, and Superintendent John White with the Louisiana Department of Education.

LPB CEO Beth Courtney and Robyn Merrick, Southern University VP of External Affairs, host the show.

Louisiana Public Square can also be heard on public radio stations WRKF in Baton Rouge; Red River Radio in Shreveport and Monroe; and WWNO in New Orleans. Check their station websites for schedule.

This episode of Louisiana Public Square is underwritten by Community Coffee’s Cash for Schools Program, the Louisiana Forestry Association, LSU Press and the Southern Independent Booksellers’ Authors Round the South.

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