Karl Benson named new Sun Belt commissioner

Published 3:12 pm Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Sun Belt Conference introduced Karl Benson as its new commission Thursday, selecting a veteran leader accustomed to fighting the battles of conference realignment.

As commission of the Western Athletic Conference, Benson helped blaze a path for non-automatic qualifying Football Bowl Subdivision schools to more easily participate in BCS bowl games.

As leader of the WAC for the past 18 years, Benson watched as Boise State rose to become a national power then bolt for greener pastures.

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Once in office on April 1, Benson will look at the possibilities of expanding the Sun Belt to boost its chances of receiving more lucrative postseason opportunities.

“As we settle in and look at the potential and looking at the future of membership is an important role,” Benson said. “I think there’s an advantage to getting to at least 12 (schools).”

Creating a Sun Belt Championship game could be one the options in achieving that goal. By NCAA rule, 12 teams are required to play a conference championship game.

While Benson did not specifically mention any potential new members, he did stress that the league’s geographic footprint would play a key role in considering any additions to the conference. He also mentioned candidates could include Division I-AA schools looking to make the move to Division I-A.

The Sun Belt is the current home for 10 football playing members including Troy. South Alabama will join the league next season.

Benson will also look to protect the membership of the Sun Belt’s existing members and providing the opportunity of rebranding their product as a conference.

“The Sun Belt has established itself as a credible, as a bona fide Division I BCS conference,” Benson said. “We hope to be able to demonstrate in the coming weeks that the future is bright for the Sun Belt.”