Bye, bye, Britton — Banowsky steps down as C-USA commissioner

July 16, 2015 by Derek Redd

Conference USA announced Thursday afternoon that Britton Banowsky, the conference’s commissioner since 2002, was stepping down to serve as executive director of the College Football Playoff Foundation. The CFP Foundation is the organization’s community arm that includes the Extra Yard for Teachers program.

Looking at it that way, this move really isn’t a surprise. Banowsky already was the foundation’s chairman, chair of the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance and president and founder of the Heart of Dallas Foundation. Community service is a big part of his life.

Since replacing Mike Slive as C-USA commissioner, the conference has weathered some turbulent waters. Most of its larger schools jumped to other conferences. The largest exodus came in 2013-14 when Memphis, Tulane, Houston, UCF, East Carolina, SMU and Tulsa all left for the American. Rather than fold up the tent, Banowsky restocked the conference with smaller teams in mostly major metropolitan areas like Charlotte, FAU and FIU, UTSA and North Texas.

“We focused on universities in large metropolitan areas that were growing and the universities had growth trends as well,” Banowsky told me in 2013. “And they were ones that made some level of facility commitment on a going-forward basis. Because if those things happen and capital improvements get made, there’s a strong likelihood of sustainability going forward.”
The debate can continue as to whether adding the third- or fourth-biggest school in a major metro maintains a footprint in that metro, but this is for sure — Banowsky kept the conference alive when nearly half its membership left. Football has struggled in the changeover. The top end with Marshall and Louisiana Tech is strong, but the bottom end, with Charlotte, FIU and UTSA among others, has some work to do. Basketball-wise, there hasn’t been a C-USA at-large bid to the NCAA tournament since 2012.
He’ll stay on until a successor is named, and that person will have a major task right off the bat. Conference USA’s TV deals with Fox and CBS College Sports last through 2016 and the new commissioner will be the point person in negotiating new contracts. That event could be telling in how well C-USA survived realignment.

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