Sun Belt commish Benson praises WKU during visit

Karl Benson/

Elliott Pratt

Newly-appointed Sun Belt Conference commissioner Karl Benson isn’t afraid to convey his excitement for the future of the conference to anyone. 

Benson plans to tell the world about it through social media, “to communicate and interact with the Sun Belt fan base.”

Benson, who officially became commissioner July 1 after spending 18 years at the same post with the Western Athletic Conference, made his first trip to Bowling Green on Monday to tour the campus and athletic facilities.

A press conference was held in Diddle Arena on Tuesday in which Benson discussed his vision for the Sun Belt and praised WKU athletics.

“I’m very impressed with the athletic complex that is in place here,” Benson said. “I’ve toured the football stadium, basketball arena, and baseball complex. The complex around here with those three facilities are as good of facilities that I have seen combined, not just in the Sun Belt but in my many years traveling around conferences previously.”

Benson tweeted from his personal account (@kbcommish) pictures from the press box of Smith Stadium and pictures of Nick Denes Field with baseball coach Matt Myers.

The commissioner said it was evident that the university has made a heavy investment in athletic facilities and understands the importance of such in a team’s success.

“There isn’t any reason that with those facilities that the teams that get the opportunity and privilege to play in them can’t have tremendous success,” Benson said.

Under the leadership of Benson, the Sun Belt will evolve a new look in the future in attempts to re-brand the league.

With the departure of North Texas and Florida International to Conference-USA beginning in the 2013-2014 season and the addition of Georgia State, Texas State and Texas-Arlington that season, the league has undergone a membership makeover.

“We will be announcing very soon a project that the Sun Belt board of directors just approved (Monday),” Benson said. “We have entered into an agreement to undergo a comprehensive branding repositioning project with a firm that specializes in projects for sport properties.”

“This is the right time for the Sun Belt to do it. We’re changing our face. We’re creating a new era. I think it’s the appropriate time to look at how the Sun Belt is viewed by the media, the fan base, and individual member institutions.”

A new Sun Belt logo will likely be revealed on July 1, 2013, Benson said. 

One change Benson mentioned is the move to an 18-game conference schedule for men’s and women’s basketball starting in 2013-2014.

That represents a two-conference game drop from the 20-game league schedule each team will play this season.

Also, by 2013-2014, all 12 member institutions will compete in basketball and baseball. 

UT-Arlington and Arkansas-Little Rock are both non-football playing schools, so the conference will still consist of 10 football schools.

Benson said that there was no “immediate agenda” to expand the conference outside of 12 schools.

“Personally, I am very satisfied with what we have put together,” Benson said. “During this whole realignment era there have been conferences that have been damaged and member institutions that have been hurt. 

“I think the Sun Belt came out of this on the winning side and that member institutions have come out on the winning side. Here at Western Kentucky they are really poised and primed to take advantage of the changes that have occurred around us.”