Benson Won’t Be a Passive Commissioner – From the Bird’s Nest
Karl Benson was introduced Thursday as the new Sun Belt Conference Commissioner. He will begin his duties on April 1, in a transition period with outgoing Commissioner Wright Waters.
Expect Benson to hit the ground running.
Benson didn't want to talk about the Western Athletic Conference or its future in a telephone news conference Thursday.
That one-hour Q&A was about his new league.
Benson extolled the geography of the league and the progress it has made as a football league in its eleven years of existence.
He said there's a plan in place for the future of the league, but didn't want to elaborate specifics.
But Benson believes in strength in numbers.
"I think there are a lot of advantages to having twelve (football schools.) The opportunity for a postseason game brings many opportunities," Benson said.
The Sun Belt Conference has ten football playing schools; eleven overall. And, Benson made it clear he'd like to see the league look at schools that fit the geographic footprint.
When asked if schools in other conferences might be targets, Benson again pointed at geography.
And, as everyone listened and read between the lines, two things became obvious:
One, the WAC as an FBS football league is Dead Man Walking.
And, two, the Sun Belt will be open for business.
Unless there's an invitation to join Mountain USA in the offing, that's really good news for schools like Louisiana Tech, Texas State and Texas-San Antonio. Not such good news for New Mexico State, San Jose State, Utah State and Idaho. New Mexico State played in all sports for a few years in the Sun Belt, but they are in the Mountain Time Zone and would be several hundred miles from the Texas Twins, not to mention the other schools in the Sun Belt. However, I don't believe a football-only invite should be totally ruled out.
And if the Sun Belt should lose some schools to Mountain USA, Benson's goal is still to get to twelve. It just might take a little longer.
Benson said he wouldn't be opposed to looking at schools moving up from the FCS ranks. That's good news for Appalachian State, Georgia State and maybe Old Dominion and/or Charlotte. And, if twelve is the goal and the Belt gets poached by the "alliance", they could be targets.
Benson also mentioned existing Conference USA schools who might not be happy with the idea of a new alliance. It would be a long shot to think Southern Mississippi and/or UAB would have an interest, but Benson will be on the phone to gauge interest.
Benson also had many years of experience in TV contract negotiations. He'll be working on that one, to be sure. And, Benson wants to see bowl opportunities increase for the league, something that probably won't happen until after 2013.
Benson extolled the efforts of outgoing Commissioner Wright Waters, who saw Sun Belt football through some very difficult times and has helped create what is now a stable league, growing in reputation as well as results on the field.
But the more he talked, the more everyone realized life in the Sun Belt is going to be quite different under the new Commissioner.