The person who was largely responsible for Coastal Carolina University joining the Sun Belt Conference is stepping down.
Commissioner Karl Benson announced Wednesday he will step down when his current contract expires on June 30 next year. He has been the commissioner for the past six years.
“I have labored over this decision for several months, but I know that now is the right time to step aside from the Sun Belt and conclude my career as a commissioner and in intercollegiate athletics,” Benson said.
Benson reached out to Coastal Carolina in 2015 regarding a possible expansion of the league and accepted the Chanticleers into the conference beginning with the 2016-17 season.
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CCU’s football program joined the league in 2017, moving up from the Football Championship Subdivision to the Football Bowl Subdivision in the process.
Coastal was a charter member of the Big South Conference in 1983, introduced its football program in the league in 2003 and remained in it until its move to the Sun Belt.
Benson was named the fifth commissioner of the Sun Belt in February 2012, and during his tenure the league realigned its structure with six institutions added, increased revenue distribution to membership by 2,000 percent, increased the number of affiliated football bowl games from two to five, and signed a multimedia rights extension with ESPN through 2028.
Benson came to the Sun Belt after serving from 1994-2012 as commissioner of the Western Athletic Conference, where he developed numerous multi-year agreements with postseason football games while also serving on the NCAA Management Council from 1999-2002 and serving a five-year term on the NCAA Men’s Basketball Committee from 2002-06.
Prior to his time at the WAC, Benson was a member of the NCAA staff for more than four years and served as commissioner of the Mid-American Conference for four years.
Benson is the only individual to have ever served as the commissioner of three FBS/Division I-A conferences.