“There are still a few things we need to tweak, a couple more investments here and a couple of more wins there in order for us to be in postseason play on a more consistent basis. That’s our goal; that’s what we keep striving to do.”
Commissioner Keith Gill has been at the helm of the Sun Belt since May, but he’s already seeing opportunities for the league. While he agrees there are a few details in the system that need to be hashed out, he tells CollegeAD the Sun Belt is in a great position among its peers.
“I think the Sun Belt is well-positioned to do a lot of the things we want to do,” Commissioner Gill explains. “Postseason play is really important to us, so when you think about the sports beyond football, we want to have multiple teams in NCAA play. We think we can be a conference like that in baseball, softball, men’s and women’s basketball. There are a lot of opportunities for us to have that prowess.”
Gill is a former student-athlete himself, and he spent four years playing football at Duke while earning a bachelor’s degree. He thinks football is one of the Sun Belt’s finest assets, but it’s not something that springs to mind for most people when they consider the Sun Belt.
“I think in the league office we have to try and find different ways to tell our story. When people hear the fact that in the last four years, we’ve led FBS in bowl winning percentage by double digits, most people don’t know that. We need to get that kind of information out there just to talk about how successful we’ve been. If we do that better I think people will understand what a quality football conference the Sun Belt is.”
It’s not just the idea of telling a better story about the league’s successes that has Gill thinking creatively, he’s also looking at new ways to approach revenue.
“Being entrepreneurial, looking for different ways to do new things,” he says. “Also, I think that saving money is just like creating revenue, so trying to do things in a more efficient way is important. Also, as we are looking at bowl deals, we will be looking at the management of those deals and how to create more revenue.”
A veteran of intercollegiate athletics for nearly 25 years, Gill came to the Sun Belt from the Atlantic 10 Conference where he served as Executive Associate Commissioner. He is the first African-American commissioner of an NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision conference.
“It means a lot to me, I’m so honored to do it. I think about my parents who grew up in Jim Crow South Carolina. They really sacrificed so I could have a lot of opportunities. It feels like I’m honoring them. Also, as I was growing in this business, it’s been important for me to see people of color of important roles.”
Commissioner Gill says he was fortunate enough to have people of color mentoring him and giving him a vision of what’s possible. Now he’s grateful to return the favor for the next generation.
“Having a role model that looks like you is important. It’s something I value because so many people served in that capacity for me and I think it’s my turn to pay it forward.”