Georgia Southern University has hired Mississippi State University’s Jared Benko as Eagle Nation’s new director of athletics. Benko will report directly to the University president, serve as a member of the President’s Cabinet and oversee 17 NCAA Division I varsity athletics programs, 15 of which compete in the Sun Belt Conference. Benko will officially start on April 1.
Benko has more than a decade of progressive and respected leadership experience in the Southeastern Conference (SEC). For the past four years, he has served as the deputy director of athletics/chief financial officer at Mississippi State University assisting the director of athletics with strategic planning, personnel decisions, marketing and public relations initiatives while also supervising the day-to-day operations of the athletic department and serving as the sport administrator for the football program.
“This was a highly sought-after position attracting over 100 candidates from across the nation,” said Georgia Southern University President Kyle Marrero. “The expressed enthusiasm for and reputation of Georgia Southern validated the success we have had, and the potential in our future. Jared stood out in everyone’s mind. The committee and I are confident he is the right person to capitalize on our momentum and lead Eagle Nation to even greater heights.”
“I am humbled and honored to serve the Georgia Southern University family,” Benko said. “The passion and pride of Eagle Nation is unmatched, and I am excited and deeply committed to bringing a hard-working and innovative culture to our coaches, staff and student-athletes. Thank you to President Marrero and the search committee for entrusting me with this critical leadership position. Georgia Southern’s best days are ahead and my family and I look forward to joining the Statesboro community.”
Athletic Foundation Board co-chairs Anthony Tippins and Leonard Bevill led the search to hire Benko, with help from a 22-person search committee that included student-athletes, supporters and University employees. In total, the search included about 100 candidates, which included 67 diverse/minority candidates and 39 women. Search co-chairs met with 22 candidates (eight of whom are from a minority group). Eight finalists were vetted this week in Atlanta. Executive search firm DHR International assisted with the search.
“We are beyond excited to welcome Jared Benko to Eagle Nation as our new director of athletics,” Bevill said. “I was impressed by the amount of interest in this position and know our department is in good hands with Jared taking the reins. This process was extensive and demonstrated great collaboration between numerous individuals, and across the University and southeast Georgia. I want to thank everyone involved in this search for their valuable time and know they helped us make a great decision.”
Prior to his tenure at Mississippi State, Benko served as the assistant athletic director for finance at Auburn University, where he was responsible for the daily operations of the business office for two years (2015-16). He also spent four years in business operations at the University of Arkansas, including serving as the director of business operations from 2012 to 2015. He was promoted to that role after 16 months as the department’s business manager, which he began in 2011. Before his time at Arkansas, Benko served as the assistant director of business operations at his alma mater, the University of Georgia, from 2008 to 2011.
“After all of our interviews and conversations, we felt Jared Benko was the best candidate that allowed us to continue our upward trajectory in the Sun Belt Conference and nationally,” Tippins said. “I look forward to seeing what Jared will do with Georgia Southern Athletics. All of Eagle Nation should be excited to welcome Jared and his family to Statesboro. The time and dedication put into this search by everyone involved are appreciated greatly.”
Benko will step into a role with high expectations to build on a Georgia Southern athletics history that includes seven national titles, 72 conference championships and 153 All-Americans. Eagle Athletics involves nearly 400 student-athletes representing 11 women’s sports and six men’s sports and employs more than 100 coaches and staff members to help accomplish its mission of “Rings, Diplomas & Leaders.”
The public and the University community are invited to a reception with Benko from 4:30-6 p.m. Monday, March 9 in the Bishop Alumni Center.
Benko, from Watkinsville, Georgia, earned a pair of degrees from The University of Georgia, first a bachelor’s degree in sports studies in 2005 and then a master’s in public administration in 2007. He started in the athletic business field as an intern at Georgia from 2007 to 2008. He also spent seven years in sports communications at UGA, including five years as a student and two years as a graduate assistant, while assisting with the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta Braves.
Benko and his wife, Sarah, have two sons, Hudson and Cooper.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING ABOUT JARED BENKO
“Georgia Southern is gaining an outstanding leader with an incredible reputation in Jared Benko. Jared has a wealth of diverse experiences in intercollegiate athletics that have more than prepared him for this opportunity. He has been an invaluable asset to Mississippi State and I appreciate his service. In working alongside Jared, it is clear that he shares the same commitment and drive to provide the very best for student-athletes, coaches, administration and fans he represents. Congratulations to Jared and his family, who are tremendous additions to Georgia Southern University and the Statesboro community.” – Mississippi State Director of Athletics John Cohen
“I think Jared does an outstanding job and that he is one of America’s up-and-coming administrators in college athletics. Without his efforts, as well as others, I would not have this great opportunity at Mississippi State. I wish him great success at Georgia Southern and I look forward to watching that program go to new heights under his leadership.” – Mississippi State Head Football Coach Mike Leach
“Jared Benko did a great job here at Mississippi State, and he’ll do a great job at Georgia Southern. He has great people skills, is really well-liked and is super organized. He’s worked in several quality schools, which gives him a breadth of knowledge and a great feel for athletics. These traits will serve him well as a director of athletics. But most of all, Jared’s a good man and a good person, and I know he will do great things for Georgia Southern.” – Mississippi State Head Men’s Basketball Coach Ben Howland
“Congratulations to Georgia Southern University hiring Jared Benko as your new athletic director. Jared has been a tremendous supporter of our women’s basketball program as well as our entire athletic department. He will not only lead your athletic department to new heights but he and his family will enhance the university community and the city of Statesboro in which they live. He is a tireless worker who will support every athletic program and give everyone the best opportunity to be successful. We have lost a tremendous family here in Starkville, Mississippi.” – Mississippi State Head Women’s Basketball Coach Vic Schaefer
“Jared Benko did an outstanding job at Mississippi State, and I know he’ll do the same as Director of Athletics at Georgia Southern. His attention to detail, preparation and ability to anticipate will serve GSU well. Plus, he’s a person of character and a good family man who will put the interests of student-athletes first. I congratulate Jared, Sarah, Hudson and Cooper and wish them the very best.” – Eastern Michigan Vice President & Director of Athletics Scott Wetherbee
“Jared has so many positive leadership qualities that will benefit Georgia Southern athletics, among them his work ethic, intellect and ability to problem solve. He is a sharp young administrator with a bright future.” – Florida Director of Athletics Scott Stricklin
“I have known Jared since he was in junior high school and he worked in my office as an undergraduate and graduate student. He has always had the dream of athletics administration and has charted a very deliberate path to attain that goal. He’s engaging, honest and has impeccable integrity with a commitment to doing things the right way.” – Georgia Senior Associate Athletic Director Claude Felton
“Jared Benko is an outstanding professional who cares about what makes intercollegiate athletics special: the student-athlete. What makes him different is also his knowledge base, network, ability to develop relationships and his experiences working for and at some of the best programs in the country. Congratulations and great hire!” – Connecticut Director of Athletics David Benedict
“Dr. Marrero and the search committee in selecting Jared have hired an AD that has the character, integrity and relentless pursuit of excellence that Georgia Southern has always exemplified. Jared will promote a culture that will provide student-athletes with the best opportunity to graduate, win championships and develop as leaders. Those in the SEC who have had a chance to work with Jared hold him in the highest regard. Congratulations to Jared and the Georgia Southern Eagles.” – Florida Executive Associate Athletics Director Jay Jacobs