Britton Banowsky steps down as Conference USA commissioner

Marshall vs. La. Tech

Conference USA Commissioner Britton Banowsky announced Thursday he will be stepping down from the position he has held nearly 13 years to serve as the Executive Director of the College Football Playoff Foundation and further his work with a number of other nonprofit organizations.

“My time with Conference USA has been an experience of a lifetime,” Banowsky said. “It has been an honor to serve these member institutions and this great conference, which is very well positioned for the future. The landscape has settled and these universities are all on the rise. They work very well together and the conference has tremendous leadership on each campus and within the conference office.”

Banowsky will stay with the Conference until it completes the process to identify his successor. It is anticipated that the Board of Directors will conduct a special meeting to discuss the matter in September and at its regular meeting scheduled Oct. 25-26.

“We all appreciate Britton’s strong and steady leadership during a period of unprecedented change in intercollegiate athletics,” said UTEP President Dr. Diana Natalicio, who just completed her term as Chair of the C-USA Board of Directors. “Britton maintained a truly remarkable balance between tactical agility and a deep understanding of the big-picture issues that confront intercollegiate athletics today. His leadership of C-USA and the talented team he built has positioned us well for a successful future.”

“As incoming Chair, unfortunately I will not get the chance to work directly with Britton, but respect his passion and commitment for fulfilling his next life ambition with the Foundation,” said Old Dominion President John R. Broderick. “Britton’s leadership has been outstanding on both the conference and national level, and I am confident C-USA will soon identify that next great leader in intercollegiate athletics who will guide us.”

Banowsky became the second Commissioner of Conference USA on Oct. 28, 2002, replacing Mike Slive, the league’s Commissioner since its 1995 inception.

Banowsky arrived in that role during a dynamic time in intercollegiate athletics. With schools changing conference membership, Banowsky led C-USA through its first transitional period and orchestrated a restructured Conference USA that began competition in August 2005.

Following another nationwide transition, the league welcomed eight new members on July 1, 2013 – Charlotte, FIU, Florida Atlantic, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee, North Texas, Old Dominion and UTSA. Charlotte, a charter member along with Southern Miss and UAB, joined Marshall, Rice and UTEP at that time. WKU rounded out the current 14-school membership when it officially joined the conference on July 1, 2014.

Despite change, Conference USA has always maintained a solid foundation and a strong identity and reinforced its position in collegiate athletics under his progressive leadership.

The inaugural Conference USA Football Championship made its debut in 2005. At that time, the league had secured five bowl tie-ins. The conference now has long-term partnerships with 10 bowls on a rotating basis, in addition to a 12-year agreement as part of the College Football Playoff. Banowsky was instrumental in founding several new bowls, including games in Dallas and in the Bahamas.

Conference USA has posted the best bowl winning percentage over three of the past four seasons. During Banowsky’s tenure, C-USA schools have earned more than 70 bowl berths, made three appearances in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four and five trips to the College World Series in addition to many other competitive accomplishments.

The Conference also saw steady improvement in academic performance, recognizing record numbers for achievements every day in the classroom with more than half of the student-athletes maintaining a 3.0 GPA or better. Since Banowsky became Commissioner, Conference USA has awarded nearly 150 postgraduate scholarships and produced more than 180 Academic All-America selections.

Boasting one of the largest footprints among the major conferences, the current membership structure provides the league direct exposure in eight of the Top 40 media markets in the nation. Banowsky also established the C-USA Digital Network as the league became one of the first to offer its own platform for digital streaming of live events and feature programs to a global audience.

A long-time advocate for public service needs, Banowsky currently serves as Chair of the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance and as a member of the Dallas Mayor’s Task Force on Poverty. In 2012, he founded and is president of the Heart of Dallas, a non-profit organization that supports efforts to end homelessness and to inspire Dallas millennials to become the next generation of philanthropists. In 2014, he founded the Bahamas Bowl, which dedicates proceeds of the event to the Ranfurly Home for Children in Nassau.

Banowsky carried that background over into his duty as chair of the College Football Playoff Foundation, kicking off the Extra Yard for Teacher Program. Introduced in conjunction with the first CFP National Championship game in North Texas, the program exceeded all expectations in its inaugural campaign.

“We are delighted that Britton will be leading the CFP Foundation,” said Bill Hancock, who, in addition to being CFP executive director, also is president of the Foundation. “He has a great passion for community service and for the mission of our Foundation–public education. Throughout his distinguished career, he has been known for his great intellect, heart and creativity. He is the very best person to take this Foundation to an exciting new echelon.”

“Cindy and I have been so blessed, we simply feel the time is right for us to make change in our lives and focus more of our attention on our community and the cause work that is important to us,” Banowsky added. “We are so grateful for the friendship and support we’ve received throughout the years. We hope we can use this next chapter to pay some of it forward. We are particularly grateful for the opportunity to lead the College Football Playoff Foundation and further the amazing work it is doing.”

Banowsky has more than 25 years of experience as a collegiate conference administrator. A licensed attorney in the state of Texas, Banowsky came to Conference USA from the Big 12 Conference, where he served as Associate Commissioner and General Counsel. Banowsky was instrumental in laying the organizational foundation for the Big 12 prior to its official launch in July 1996.

He was responsible for management of the Big 12 Conference’s legal affairs, including the administration of television, bowl and championships agreements. He oversaw national policy development, governance and NCAA regulatory matters, as well as assisted the commissioner in strategic planning and the management of the league office. Banowsky also served as a corporate officer and liaison to the league’s Board of Directors.

Prior to joining the Big 12, Banowsky was the Commissioner of the Southland Conference. Banowsky had been an Assistant Commissioner at the Southland before joining the former Southwest Conference as an Assistant Commissioner. While at the SWC, Banowsky was responsible for the league’s legal affairs and compliance activities.

The 55-year-old Banowsky has served on numerous national committees. He is a member of the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions and just completed a term as chair, overseeing a number of high-profile cases. He also concluded his term as president of the Collegiate Commissioners Association (CCA) last month. He is a former secretary and treasurer of the CCA. He has also been a member of the NCAA Committee on Academic Performance, BCS Television Committee, Basketball Academic Enhancement Working Group and the NLI Policy and Review Committee.

— Story, photo courtesy Conference USA

The Banowsky File

Commissioner, Conference USA
President/Founder, Heart of Dallas Foundation
Chair, Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance
Chair, College Football Playoff Foundation
President, Collegiate Commissioners Association
Chair, NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions
Associate Commissioner/General Counsel, Big 12 Conference
Commissioner, Southland Conference
Assistant Commissioner, Southwest Conference
Assistant Commissioner, Southland Conference
Lawyer, Private Practice