Karl Benson was named the fifth commissioner of the Sun Belt Conference on Thursday, February 16 and officially began his tenure on March 15, 2012.
After only several weeks on the job, Benson quickly set the tone for the future of the Sun Belt Conference by adding Georgia State, Texas-Arlington and Texas State to the league. These three new additions to the Sun Belt Conference add not just stability to the league, but also strength.
Because of Benson’s vision, the Sun Belt Conference will remain a 10-team football league and restore its position as a 12-team basketball league because of the additions. Additionally, the Sun Belt Conference will be able to restore a logical geographical split for divisional play.
Benson currently serves as the President of the NCAA Football Board of Directors. He has previously served on the NCAA Management Council from 1999-2002 and a five-year term on the NCAA Men’s Basketball Committee from 2002-06.
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. In men’s basketball, the WAC has sent at least two teams to the NCAA Tournament in 24 of the past 28 seasons.
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 was born on December 1, 1951 and has one daughter, Jessie, 21, a junior at the University of Southern California - majoring in broadcast journalism in the Annenberg School of Communication.