Nov. 10, 2011
ARLINGTON, Tex. - Western Athletic Conference commissioner Karl Benson visited UT Arlington this week and served as the guest speaker for November's Maverick Club luncheon.
After enjoying some Texas barbeque, Benson delivered a brief but detailed history of the WAC to an interested and lively gathering of boosters. Benson also took questions from the packed house about the WAC's future with the additions of UTA, UTSA, Texas State, Seattle and Denver.
Benson took time to visit with UTAMavs.com's Art Garcia after the luncheon:
UTAMavs.com: How gratifying are the receptions you received by UTA and the other new schools in the WAC?
Karl Benson: It energizes me and it recharges me. I had no idea what to expect here. I committed to this six weeks ago and it was fun. I've see the same type of reception in San Marcos and San Antonio. When you think about it, this is our largest one-time expansion since the six we brought in 1999. This is five and it's pretty significant. It happened in stages, but we've added five quality schools in the last year.
UTAMavs.com: The new members, plus the existing schools, have to give you hope for the future even though there's still uncertainty out there.
Benson:The foundation of the 10 teams -- five west and five central -- is going to be a launching pad for us assuming we can get through this current time of uncertainty.
UTAMavs.com: Since the invitation of UTA in July, what more have you learned about the school and this area?
Benson:It starts at the top in President Spaniolo. He's the key to this. He's got a vision. He told me that he's competitive, he likes to win, and not just in sports, but as a university president. I'm very impressed with him and have confidence in him. [Athletic director Pete Carlon] has been around for 30 years. Probably the other thing is the basketball complex. Would we have added UTA if the CPC hadn't been in place? I don't know.
UTAMavs.com: What sold the WAC on UTA?
Benson:I had to convince the membership that we needed to get to 10. There was some opposition to get to 10, not just with UTA. I had considered Utah Valley and Bakersfield. On June 9th or 10th, the WAC presidents voted to stay at nine even though I wanted 10 to create the balance and the numbers. UTA really wasn't on our list at time and it was after that meeting that President Romo at UTSA said we should be looking at UTA.
UTA recognized what Texas State and UT-San Antonio leaving the Southland might mean to UTA. That's what turned the light on, especially when we came out of the meeting not adding the 10th. The door was open. It was a phone call to Pete that resulted in a phone call 24 hours later from President Spaniolo that resulted in me coming to Arlington two or three days later. It was fast.
UTAMavs.com: What can the WAC do as far as working with other leagues to promote stability?
Benson:We need to explore alliances and "what ifs" should other schools leave other leagues. We have seven football playing schools. Is there a somehow merge them in some football-only arrangement? I'm not advocating or suggesting it, but maybe what we need to look at is how to treat football, how to fix football, how to manage football, and let other sports stay compact and regional in nature.
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