Georgia Southern Director of Athletics Jared Benko will received the Erk Russell Spirit Award recently in Macon. The award is presented by the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame Foundation’s board of directors and recognizes contributions to sport that mirror the enthusiasm that Erk Russell brought to coaching football and to all of life’s endeavors.

Benko was hired in March of 2020 as the leader of the Georgia Southern Athletics Department and has made an immediate impact on Eagle Athletics.

His first year (2020) was unprecedented in more ways than one as Jared Benko had to navigate a college landscape altered by COVID-19. The Eagle football team was one of two FBS teams (Alabama) to play 13 games and just one of two (Texas State) to play all 12 regular season contests. The football season was capped by a win over Louisiana Tech in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. Three Georgia Southern teams captured conference championships (rifle, women’s tennis, men’s golf) and the Athletic Foundation recorded record fundraising numbers and prospect visits in the 2020-21 campaign. Two major projects were also approved by the USG, changing the future facility landscape of Georgia Southern athletics.

From a hiring standpoint, Benko successfully hired four Olympic sports head coaches to take over the helms of those programs. He also worked quickly to find the men’s soccer program a new home in the MAC after the Sun Belt Men’s Soccer Conference dissolved, giving the Eagles a home that has a bid to the NCAA Tournament. In late 2021, he made a national splash by hiring former Southern Cal head coach Clay Helton as the new leader of the GS football program.

Before even officially starting in Statesboro, Benko quickly moved to fill the open men’s basketball position in March of 2020 and hired Brian Burg from national powerhouse Texas Tech to lead the Eagle program. From start to announcement, the entire process lasted just eight days and the hire garnered national praise from media and Burg’s fellow coaches.

Benko has previous professional stops at Mississippi State, Arkansas and Georgia. Jared Benko, from Watkinsville, Georgia, earned a bachelor of science in sports studies from Georgia in 2005 and then a master of public administration in Athens in 2007. He got his start in the athletic business field as an intern at Georgia from 2007 to 2008. He also spent seven years in sports communications at Georgia, including five years as a student and two years as a graduate assistant, while assisting with the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta Braves.

The Spirit Award will be presented to Benko during the annual Induction Ceremony of the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. The members of the Class of 2022 who will be enshrined at the banquet are: James Bankston, Alan Chadwick, Stewart Cink, Warrick Dunn, Deon Grant, Steve Holman, Bob Horner and Eric Zeier.

This award was presented to Benko at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame induction event on February 19, 2022. Grice Connect just learned of this honor for Jared and felt some of our followers may have missed this as well.

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