Benko’s Hopes for Savannah and Armstrong

Benkos Hopes for Savannah and Armstrong

The George-Anne Inkwell sat down with Georgia Southern athletic director Jared Benko on Friday, Jan. 14, and discussed the relationship between the Georgia Southern athletic department and the community on the Armstrong campus.

Benko made it clear throughout the conversation that his department maintains an active interest in holding NCAA-sponsored events in Savannah, making them more accessible to members of the Armstrong community and other members of the Savannah population.

“I met with the Savannah Sports Council when I first got here… we wanted to have a midnight madness event down in Ellis Square, and COVID obviously hit. I actually filed an application last year to do the same event… we were going to try to do it the third weekend of October, and they stopped taking applications,” said Benko.

The department pursued more than just one aspect of Savannah’s sporting opportunities. Benko and his team have explored several different options within the city.

“We also met with the GM of the Enmarket Arena about having some basketball games down there. Some of our coaches are also looking at campsand have had camps… I think you’ll see an expansion down the road as soon as we can get through COVID, and quite frankly, we need to continue to expose our coaches to the Armstrong campus… I’m excited about continuing to have a presence down there.

While COVID has restricted some opportunities to connect the athletics between Statesboro and Savannah, there is also the reality that the infrastructure of Georgia Southern athletics exists primarily within the Statesboro campus.

“You have to have a home base, because what surrounds the sport: You’re going to have academics, athletic training, strength conditioning and we’re a very large organization to support our 400 plus student athletes. So you have to have a home base because your home base is built around supporting student athletes academically as well. Our home base is here in Statesboro.”

Statesboro remains the home base, but there is no lack of recognition as to what Armstrong’s campus has accomplished historically, pre-consolidation. Benko hopes that the upcoming opening of the Armstrong Hall of Champions will send a message of appreciation to the Armstrong community and its alumni.

“One: it’s a chance to pay homage to those former student athletes. And two: really for us it’s a chance to continue to promote those former student athletes who were Armstrong student athletes, and now they’re a part of the Georgia southern family. So I think it’s a great opportunity just to recognize and highlight those achievements and accomplishments.”

Benko went further to describe how to recognize the past while moving the athletic department forward.

“We have tons of traditions, right? Which makes this place special. But we also fight every day to be innovative. I personally believe you can do both. I believe that you can pay homage and pay respect and honor those that came before you, right? But at the same standpoint, every day now, as one university with three campuses, we’re trying to find ways to get better.”

The conversation with Benko ended with him praising the city of Savannah, as he remains confident that Georgia Southern athletics will continue to become more present and more accessible to the members of the Savannah area.

“We’re going to be present there. It’s not going to happen overnight, we have to pick and choose what makes sense. But now that is a big part of our footprint. We just gotta be strategic with when and where.”

For more information on Georgia Southern athletics, visit their webpage. Athletic events on the Armstrong campus can be found on the CRI homepage.

For more coverage on Georgia Southern athletics, visit the sports section of the George-Anne’s website.