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Sun Belt makes history in hiring of sixth commissioner

Keith Gill becomes first African-American commissioner in FBS history

Louisiana Monroe v Georgia Southern
The Sun Belt Conference announced its sixth commissioner in conference history Tuesday.
Photo by Todd Bennett/Getty Images

Keith Gill has been named the sixth commissioner of the Sun Belt Conference, the league announced Tuesday. Gill is now the first African-American to lead a Football Bowl Subdivision conference.

The FBS is the highest level of Division 1 college football, made up of 10 conferences—the SBC being one of five Group of 5 conferences. The conference, based in New Orleans, Louisiana, also fields teams in 17 other sports across the year.

Prior to Gill’s hiring, nine FBS commissioners were white men. Judy MacLeod of Conference USA was the lone female commissioner in FBS.

“Keith is a proven leader with deep experience across the many dimensions of intercollegiate athletics,” Georgia State and Sun Belt President Mark P. Becker, Ph.D said in a press release. “Combining that with his passion, integrity and enthusiasm, Keith will be an outstanding leader as the Sun Belt continues on its rising trajectory.”

Outgoing commissioner Karl Benson has held the role since 2012, but announced his plan to retire this past August. Gill’s starting date is set for May 1.

“I am honored and excited to have been selected as the Commissioner of the Sun Belt Conference and I am grateful to President Becker and all of the Sun Belt presidents and chancellors for allowing me this opportunity,” said Gill. “I look forward to serving and working with them, their outstanding institutions, the administrators and coaches of the conference and the student-athletes that continue to push the Sun Belt to the pinnacle of intercollegiate athletics.”

Gill has been serving as the Executive Associate Commissioner of the Atlantic-10 Conference since 2017 after a five-year stint as the University of Richmond’s Athletic Director. While working in the A-10, Gill was named an Under Armour Athletic Director of the Year by NACDA in 2015.

At UR, the Spiders won 14 conference championships across its athletic programs and had 19 All-Americans.

“Keith has established himself as a national leader in college athletics and will bring to the Sun Belt a wealth of knowledge, talent, and leadership,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said. “His work on campuses, conference offices, the NCAA national office, and leadership of the Division I Council all give him a remarkable background for this position.”

Though the A-10 is not a football conference, Gill has experience working on and around the gridiron. From 2004-2007, Gill, a former Duke running back, was the Senior Associate Athletic Director at Oklahoma, while also serving on the NCAA Football Rules Committee.

“I have enjoyed knowing Keith since our days together in the NCAA national office,” College Football Playoff Executive Director Bill Hancock said. “He is a bright, energetic and savvy veteran of our business who will be yet another great leader for the Sun Belt.”

Gill earned the role over University of Memphis Athletic Director Tom Bowen and Sun Belt Deputy Commissioner Kathy Keene, per Brett McMurphy.