Collected Wisdom of Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky

COMPILED BY BERRY TRAMEL, Staff Writer, btramel@opubco.com Published: September 14, 2013
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photo - Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky speaks at a news conference on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, in Nashville, Tenn. Banowsky talked about the conference and the addition of Middle Tennessee, which begins July 1. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky speaks at a news conference on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, in Nashville, Tenn. Banowsky talked about the conference and the addition of Middle Tennessee, which begins July 1. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

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.

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