Britton Banowsky's father, Bill, became the University of Oklahoma president in 1978, and Britton joined his parents in Norman a year later. Banowsky got business and law degrees at OU, practiced law for a short time and then entered athletic administration, with the Southland and Southwest conferences. In 2002, Banowsky became commissioner of Conference USA, which is navigating a turbulent course as the major conferences want more say in their governance.
I love OU. It's where I met my wife. It's where we had our first baby. It's where I have a lot friends. I love the leadership there. Joe Castiglione's a great man. I root for ‘em, I appreciate ‘em for the quality they represent. I'm a happy alum of OU and will always be that.
I have a lot of memories unrelated to sports that I'm not going to go in to too much detail. Those of my colleagues that were students at the time probably can share some of those stories.
Being the president's son is interesting. I remember the hospitality I received, from the teachers, actually the hospitality in the entire community was remarkable. I came from California to an environment where I didn't have the mountains and the ocean, but we had really warm big hearts and people would talk to each other and engage. I remember the warmth of the people. I remember the university. The football program. I remember the trips down here for OU-Texas and the flood of memories like that. It was a remarkable and rewarding experience.
The truth is, I was going to Pepperdine, because my father was at Pepperdine. But I got in so much trouble my freshman year, I had to come back and be with my folks in Oklahoma. Best thing that ever happened to me.
Athletic administration was happenstance. I was a lawyer, practicing downtown (Dallas). Met a guy playing noon hoop who actually worked at the Southwest Conference. We developed a friendship. He's actually vice president of the NCAA right now, Kevin Lennon. We talked about higher education, intercollegiate athletics. I came from the perspective of a president's son, big athletics. I said, I think I'll try it out. He said, then talk to this guy. He gave me the name of a guy at the Southland Conference. Went and talked to him, and he offered me the (assistant commissioner) job on the spot.
I went home, talked to my wife, said guess what, I got offered this job. I'm thinking about leaving our law practice.
She said, what does it pay? She started to cry. Wasn't sure if she was crying for the hormones of our second child or because she saw me moving in a different direction. But she was very supportive.
That obviously was a crossroads decision. But the last 25 years have been very meaningful for me. That's a professional opportunity that few people get. So I'm very happy about it.
It's a privilege to work for higher education and to work with presidents of universities. I enjoy that a lot. I enjoy the macro elements of it. Moving the pieces around to make alignments work and get people working together. I enjoy that. I enjoy the games. Some more than that. I don't like to travel as much.
At the end of the day, it's a job, but it's a job I'm privileged to have.
I think all (conferences) share a lot of the same frustrations with the system right now. It's not kind of isolated to one conference or a couple of conferences. They (the major conferences) obviously have the most equity in the system, so they have the most responsibilities to get their arms around and tackle it.
There are a lot of problems that we have to try and solve. Like the issue of compensation packages for student-athletes, enhancing some of those in the revenue sports, trying to figure that out. That's tricky. We have major issues around health and safety and concussions and those kinds of things. So we haven't been able to tackle those things. Seems like we're always working on conference realignment. Maybe some of those issues are getting out of alignment. We've gotta figure out a way to get together and figure it out.
I don't feel like there's a line cut that's going to happen above us, other than the market place line that's already been drawn. The revenue in college athletics has been primarily captured by those conferences in that grouping you described. So I think the rest of us actually work pretty well together and share some of the same values and ideas about how we can make college athletics a better place.
At some point, what we can't let happen is institutions, probably not football centric, that don't share the same values, and set fundamental objectives for athletics, drive the agenda. I think that's all they're saying. The agenda needs to be driven from the top. Which makes a lot of sense.
I can envision certainly a circumstance where those five conferences have a stronger voice, a little louder voice in the way their problems get addressed. Because I think that's frankly appropriate. We need their leadership right now. Starting another organization, and doing those kinds of things, I'm not hearing that as a possibility that is immenent.
The fascinating part about this is we have contracts. We just entered into a 12-year agreement for the college football playoff. That's 10 conferences and Notre Dame,, saying basically we're in this deal for 12 years. I think the frustration is how do we create a system that can solve the problems? How do we put our best minds and our best leadership in places where they can actually help us tackle the problems, because we all want to see college athletics continue to prosper but also continue to remain aligned with the values of our universities.
Conference USA, we're going to do what we're going to do. We have a set of values that are important to us. We're going to operate with integrity. We want to graduate our student-athletes. We want to win and be competitive and we want our fans to feel good about what we're doing across all of those value planks. So we're going to keep doing that. That's what we're going to do. We're going to have games, we're going to have television, we're going to have fans, we're going to promote each other, We're going to promote the accomplishments of the student-athletes.
College athletics have been our campuses in some cases for 100 years and it's going to continue to be on our campuses. We're still going to be part of the system, a system that hopefully shares our values and a system that can we can be part of the solution to some of these problems.