The Great Danes have a new leader.
Mark Benson has been named the new Athletic Director at U-Albany.
He moves north from Virginia where he spent the last 17 years at Old Dominion, the past four as senior associate Athletic Director.
Benson has a wife and three daughters, all under the age of 8. Before O-D-U, he worked as a manager with Coca-Cola Enterprises.
Benson replaces Lee McElroy who retired in June.
AUDIO: UAlbany's new Athletic Director Mark Benson joins Rodger Wyland on Fox Sports 980's Big Board Sports:
OFFICIAL RELEASE FROM UALBANY:
Mark Benson Named New Director of Athletics at the University at Albany
ALBANY, N.Y. (August 20, 2014) -- The University at Albany today named Mark Benson as director of athletics. Benson, 45, becomes the University's second AD since the program entered Division I sports 15 years ago. As director, Benson, who previously was the senior associate athletic director at Old Dominion University, will provide leadership for UAlbany’s NCAA Division I, 19-sport intercollegiate athletics program <http://www.ualbanysports.com/> and its scholar student athletes.
Following a nationwide search, Benson takes the reins of the University's diverse athletics programs from outgoing AD Dr. Lee McElroy, who announced his retirement in June of this year. McElroy continues to work with the University as the senior advisor to the president for intercollegiate athletics advancement & engagement, where he aids in the transition of key donor relationships.
"It is important for UAlbany to engage an athletics leader who has a demonstrated background for combining success in sports with high academic achievement. Mark Benson is well qualified to head a program that values the integrity of the collegiate athletics experience," said University at Albany President Robert J. Jones. “We have an outstanding athletics program with many benefits and a great legacy on which to build. The University community extends a warm welcome to Mark and his family."
Benson also served as the assistant vice president for Athletic Development at Old Dominion, and has served in this capacity since August 2006, and was an adjunct professor in the Sports Management Program. During his time at Old Dominion, Benson was responsible for budget preparation and administration, as well as providing sport supervision for men’s and women’s sailing. During Benson’s tenure at Old Dominion, the Athletic Endowment grew more than $16 million and the Old Dominion Athletic Foundation annual fund grew from $400,000 to $4.1 million. Benson was responsible for soliciting seven $1 million plus gifts to athletics, as well as numerous significant commitments from donors.
Prior to his time at Old Dominion, Benson worked at Coca-Cola Enterprises, Inc. as an Educational Channel manager. In his role with Coca-Cola, he managed the Educational Channel for the Commonwealth Division, which covers sales centers from eastern Delaware to eastern North Carolina. Benson developed financial and marketing proposals as well as negotiated beverage contracts with colleges and universities within his division.
Benson and his wife Hunter are the parents of three daughters, Vandy Grace, Lydon and Hannum. He is a graduate of North Carolina State University.
"I am excited to join the University at Albany athletics program at this stage in its growth and potential," Benson said. "My family and I feel warmly welcomed by the UAlbany community, and I can't wait to settle in and get to work."
"I'm pleased to welcome Mark to the University at Albany and the America East Conference," said AE Commissioner Amy Huchthausen. "UAlbany has a robust athletics program and he takes the AD title at perfect time to build from a position of strength, both within the conference and nationally. I look forward to working with him as he moves the program forward."
"Mark was instrumental in orchestrating ODU’s meteoric rise to FBS football in just five seasons, while helping us sell out every home game we played," said Old Dominion AD Wood Selig. "While ODU will greatly miss his substantial contributions and leadership, we are thrilled he will realize his professional goal of becoming a DI athletic director at a high profile academic institution. UAlbany is getting a rising star in the college athletic industry in Mark Benson."
"Mark Benson's leadership will guide the growth of athletics at UAlbany," said CAA Commissioner Tom Yeager. "We know he'll apply his commitment and vision to the student-athletes, academics, and the university."
The University at Albany led an NCAA Division III program from 1972 to 1995, moved to Division II for four years and entered Division I competition in 1999. UAlbany sports has eight men's and 11 women's teams competing at the Division I intercollegiate level. Seventeen of the 19 are members of the America East Conference, while football competes in the Colonial Athletic Association, and women's golf in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
Since entering Division I, UAlbany has won 74 Conference championships and 25 regular season titles, and 31 teams have participated in NCAA tournaments. In the 2013-14 season, the Great Danes won eight conference championships and had 92 athletes achieve all-Conference honors. In 2006, the UAlbany Great Danes produced the first team in State University of New York history to play in the men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament, competing against UConn.
Most notably, the UAlbany Great Danes excel as student-athletes. In 2013-14, the University had 30 America East All-Academic honorees, while four Great Danes were winners of a SUNY Chancellor Scholar-Athlete Award.
UAlbany student-athletes have also volunteered more than 20,000 hours in local organizations and charities including the Salvation Army, Wounded Warriors Project, American Cancer Society and Big Brothers/ Big Sisters. Great Danes have been honored with ESPN Academic All-American Awards, All-American Honor Awards, Chancellor Scholar-Athlete Awards, America East Conference Academic Honor Roll <http://www.americaeast.com/ViewArticle.dbml?ATCLID=3753252&DB_OEM_ID=14000>and University Presidential Leadership Awards.
UAlbany's 2014 football season kicks off Saturday, August 30 at Bob Ford Field vs. Holy Cross. The game will air on 810 & 103.1 WGY at 6 p.m.