Karl Benson taking Sun Belt post

NEW ORLEANS -- Western Athletic conference commissioner Karl Benson has agreed to become the next commissioner of the Sun Belt Conference, a person familiar with the hiring said.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Wednesday because the Sun Belt Conference had not announced the hiring. The Sun Belt issued a statement that it would have an announcement about the future of the conference on Thursday afternoon, but did not provide further details.

Benson has been the WAC commissioner since 1994, and spent four years as commissioner of the Mid-American Conference before that. He will take over for outgoing Sun Belt commissioner Wright Waters, who is retiring this summer.

The Sun Belt has 12 members across Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee and Texas.

Benson, 60, has helped reshape the WAC numerous times during his tenure, and leaves in the middle of its latest transformation.

Boise State left the Western Athletic Conference for the Mountain West after the 2010-11 season and Nevada, Fresno State and Hawaii are leaving the WAC after this season for the Mountain West.

The WAC is left with Utah State, Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State, Idaho and San Jose State and it has Denver, Seattle, Texas State, Texas-Arlington and Texas-San Antonio joining for the 2012-13 season. Denver, Seattle and UT-Arlington do not have football programs. Boise State plans to rejoin the WAC in everything but football when it joins the Big East in 2013.

But the WAC is in danger again of having its members poached, this time by the new league being formed by members of the Mountain West and Conference USA.

Those 16 schools are looking to create a conference of 18-24 members by 2013, and Louisiana Tech, San Jose State and Utah State have been speculated as possible expansion targets.

The Sun Belt, however, has managed to avoid been picked apart by other expanding conferences and has become more competitive as a football league in recent years under Waters.