Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Benedict ready to embrace challenges as UConn's athletic director

On the surface, who wouldn't want to take over a program which has won 16 national championships since 1999 and 20 overall.

However, newly-hired David Benedict is aware that these are trying times. During the question and answer portion of the Tuesday morning press conference announcing his hiring, every inquiry he faced centered around getting the Huskies into a Power 5 Conference.

"This is a Power 5 or if you want to refer to it as an Autonomy 5 program all day every day," Benedict said. "We have success in winning national championships. We have a supportive president and leader and we have donors who that are willing to support these unbelievable facilities we are currently sitting in. I think from a conference affiliation standpoint, our job is to make sure we are competing and dominating whatever conference that we are currently competing in."

Benedict, who comes to UConn after spend two years as the Chief Operating Officer for the athletic department at Auburn, knew what he was getting into. He walked the line between putting UConn in position to be a part of the next stage conference realignment and not disrespecting the American Athletic Conference.

"I think it is important for us to be good partners with our current conference," Benedict said. "I think the American has done a great job putting together a very strong conference in a very short period of time and we are going to be great members to that conference. At the same time, we are going to make sure we position ourselves so we can remain competitive nationally in all of our sports.

"We are going to compete at everything. I just want to repeat that, we are going to compete at everything. We are going to win on the field and in courts of play and we are going to win in the classroom. Academic excellence has to be a top priority and we are going to do it the right way."

Benedict has held down prominent position at Power 5 programs including Arizona State, Minnesota and Auburn but has also worked at Virginia Commonwealth and Long Beach. It was the wide ranging amount of experienced and programs he has been a part of that helped to make him such an enticing candidate to replace Warde Manuel, who is headed to Michigan.

"He brings a national network, no question about it," UConn President Susan Herbst said. "He knows amazing people. He knows people at that level and it is very important to us.

Benedict said he has been involved in the process resulting in his hiring for about four weeks.

"The last few days have certainly been a whirlwind," Benedict said. "It has been great. I am really trying to slow it down a little bit, enjoy it. This is going to be a once in a lifetime thing for me. I will never be a first-time athletic director again. It is very important to me, it is something I have been working towards for 20 years so I felt like I won the national championship today."


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