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.
What are the programs and initiatives helping our veterans successfully transition to civilian life?
Since 2001, 2.6 million service men and women have been deployed to support operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Twenty-six percent of Louisiana’s veterans fought in these conflicts. The needs for these veterans are plentiful including securing employment and housing, and dealing with the mental rigors of transitioning from military back to civilian life.
Louisiana Public Square explores the unique programs and initiatives that are helping our state’s younger veterans successfully overcome these challenges on “Louisiana Veterans Back Home” Wednesday, October 24 at 7 p.m. on LPB and in New Orleans on WLAE. (Recording Thursday, October 18.)
Veterans Coming Home is a collaborative, multi-platform public media project between Wisconsin Public Television and Kindling Group in partnership with local stations and other national organizations. Veterans Coming Home is made possible with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.