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Karl Benson named Sun Belt Commissioner

Current WAC commissioner to take over April 1

Published: Thursday, February 23, 2012

Updated: Thursday, February 23, 2012 14:02

karl benson

Karl Benson was appointed the fifth commissioner of the Sun Belt Conference on Feb. 16. Benson served in the WAC for 17 years.

The winds of change are finally making their way to the Sun Belt Conference.

After a year where the NCAA saw schools like Texas A&M, West Virginia and Missouri change their conference affiliations, the Sun Belt Conference remained relatively unchanged until now.

On Feb. 16, the Sun Belt announced it had appointed current Western Atlantic Conference (WAC) commissioner, Karl Benson, to the same position, a job held for 13 years by Wright Waters.

"We are grateful to Commissioner Wright Waters for his outstanding leadership over the past twelve years and we are delighted to announce the appointment of Karl Benson as our new commissioner," said Sun Belt Conference and Troy University President Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr. in a Feb. 16 teleconference.

"In choosing Commissioner Benson as our new commissioner, we have hired a leader who has a clear vision for the future direction of our league. I am convinced our best days lie ahead of us," Hawkins continued.

Benson, who will begin his duties as the Sun Belt's Commissioner on April 1, will be just the fifth person to hold the position in the the leagues 36 year existence.

During the teleconference, the focus of many questions asked of Benson concerned whether there were any imminent plans for the conference to expand.

Benson commented that the conference's main focus is on the schools currently in the Sun Belt, the 10 football participating schools, and UALR, a non-football institution.

"I think that there's an advantage to getting to at least 12 to take advantage of additional post season opportunities," said Benson. "Know that in the coming weeks, the Sun Belt board will establish a committee that will look to evaluate the current membership and the future membership."

The only changes to the Sun Belt's line up so far are the departure of the University of Denver, a non-football school, to the WAC conference and the full addition of South Alabama to football in 2013.

Benson also shied away from the issue of whether the conference will look to add any schools from WAC, which is in the midst of its own turmoil, having only five members to participate in football with the departure of Nevada, Hawaii and Fresno State.

"There may be sensitivity and perhaps some awkwardness," said Benson. "I think everyone understands that once you change positions that you are now responsible and obligated to that conference. I will certainly do that with the Sun Belt."

Benson's was preceded as commissioner by Vic Bubas (1976-90), Jim Lessig (1990-91), Craig Thompson (1991-98), and Wright Waters from 1998 to 2012.


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