Sun Belt Commissioner Keith Gill signs contract extension through 2030

JMU joins the Sun Belt: Keith Gill's comments (11/6/21)
JMU joins the Sun Belt: Keith Gill's comments (11/6/21)
Published: Jul. 25, 2022 at 11:00 AM CDT
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Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Keith Gill has signed a contract extension that will keep him as the league’s leader through at least June 30, 2030. Gill was named the Conference’s sixth commissioner on March 19, 2019, and had previously inked an extension through 2026.  

“Commissioner Gill has been a tremendous leader for the Sun Belt Conference, just as we expected he would be when we hired him. What we did not anticipate at the time was the impact of a global pandemic on athletics or how soon we would be dealing with realignment. In both cases, Keith provided excellent leadership to the SBC Board of Directors, our institutional leadership, and the conference staff. After convening a COVID mitigation plan, for example, the SBC was one of the first conferences to commit to playing a full slate of football games in Fall 2020, which provided our schools increased exposure through linear broadcasts,” stated Dr. Damphousse, Texas State University President. “During realignment, Keith kept campus leaders informed about the rapid changes taking place and ensured that the Sun Belt Conference was able to accomplish its goals of adding outstanding new partner universities that fit our strategic and geographic goals (and to complete our new conference structure in 2022). My fellow board members were very pleased when Keith agreed to extend his contract, and we are looking forward to his leading our conference forward as we face a continuously changing environment in intercollegiate athletics.”  

 “I am grateful to Dr. Damphousse and all of the Sun Belt presidents and chancellors for extending my opportunity to serve the conference and its 14 member institutions,” said Sun Belt Conference Commissioner Keith Gill. “I am proud of the way our membership has pulled together through the COVID-19 pandemic and realignment and look forward to the bright future that lies ahead for the Sun Belt.”

Gill has directed the Sun Belt through an historic period in college athletics that saw the Football Bowl Subdivision league become a 14-member football conference across 10 contiguous states. James Madison, Marshall, Old Dominion and Southern Miss all became full members on July 1, 2022. In addition, Gill facilitated the return of men’s soccer, bringing together a nine-member league starting in 2022 that features some of the nation’s top teams and a membership that has made more than 100 all-time NCAA Tournament appearances collectively.  In the College Football Playoff era (since 2014), the Sun Belt paces the FBS with a .649 bowl winning percentage and in 2021, three Sun Belt teams accumulated double-digit wins for the first time in league history.  The Sun Belt has enjoyed broad-based success during Gill’s tenure. The SBC has been a multi-bid league in both baseball (4 in 2022) and softball (4 in 2021). In addition, six Sun Belt men’s basketball programs made postseason appearances in 2022.

From the beginning, Gill established priorities for the Sun Belt Conference, emphasizing the academic success and personal development of student-athletes. He has successfully expanded the league’s national profile through branding and inclusion initiatives.  The Sun Belt is showcased through a media rights partnership with ESPN that runs through the 2030-31 academic year. The Sun Belt enjoyed a viewership of 18.2 million during the 2021 football season. For the 11th consecutive year in 2022, every Sun Belt home football game will appear on an ESPN platform.

During the 2020-21 academic year, Gill guided the conference through the COVID-19 pandemic and his leadership made it possible for the membership to safely complete full seasons in all sponsored sports, including 39 of 40 regular-season football games.  Gill’s work regarding inclusion and racial inequity included the launch of the BE THE CHANGE initiative in June 2020, demonstrating to SBC student-athletes the value of being civic minded throughout their lives. The conference also established and encouraged its teams and fans to visit the Sun Belt Conference Civil Rights Trail, which highlights historic sites and landmarks found in the geographic footprint of its member schools.  

Gill, the first Black Commissioner in FBS history, recently concluded his first year of a five-year term on the NCAA Men’s Basketball Committee that runs through the 2025-26 campaign. Gill also sits on the NCAA Division I Nominating Committee and the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel (PROP).  A 25-year veteran of intercollegiate athletics, Gill previously served as Executive Associate Commissioner at the Atlantic 10 Conference (2017-19) and the Director of Athletics at Richmond (2013-17) and American (2007-12). He also worked in the athletics departments at Oklahoma and Vanderbilt, along with two stints in the membership services department at the NCAA national office, where he began his career as a postgraduate intern.  Gill graduated from Duke University as a four-year football student-athlete in 1994 and earned his master’s degree from Oklahoma in 2006.

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