- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 1, 2016

STORRS, Conn. (AP) - UConn’s new athletic director Dave Benedict considers the Huskies’ program at the level of a Power Five school.

Benedict, the previous chief operating office at Auburn, was introduced Tuesday as the 12th athletic director at Connecticut.

He replaces Warde Manuel, who will become athletic director at Michigan this month.

Benedict said UConn’s 16 national titles since 2000, quality of facilities and fan support put it on par with other elite athletic programs in the nation. He said his job is making sure that doesn’t slip.

“This is a Power Five, or if you want to refer to it as an ‘Autonomy Five,’ program all day, every day,” Benedict said.

Benedict will earn $450,000 a year at UConn, with the chance for $100,000 annually in bonuses based on the athletic and academic performance of the school’s student athletes. He would earn a $250,000 retention bonus if he stays five years.

Benedict directed the day-to-day operations of the Auburn athletic department, which has a budget of more than $120 million. UConn has a budget of $71 million.

He said he understands the perception that the school’s conference affiliation is the biggest challenge for the athletic department.

Most of UConn’s programs are competing for national championships in the American Athletic Conference against leagues that generate significantly more revenue.

Benedict said his job will be to maximize the financial resources of the school and find ways to increase income, whether the school stays in the American Athletic Conference or not.

“The conference distribution, regardless of what conference you’re in, is just one revenue stream, there are lots of others,” he said. “But we all know that the ‘Autonomy Five’ conferences are producing a lot more revenue than the ‘Group of Five.’”

Benedict was hired at Auburn in 2014 from Minnesota, where he served as deputy athletic director. He also has held leadership positions in the athletic departments at Virginia Commonwealth (2010-12), Long Beach State (2007-10) and Arizona State (1996-2006).

UConn President Susan Herbst said that national experience and network of contacts, along with Benedicts financial acumen, were key in bringing him to Connecticut.

She pointed specifically to his role as lead negotiator in getting Auburn a nine-year, $78.1 million endorsement deal with Under Armour.

“There are not many parts of the university that can generate revenue,” Herbst said. “One of them is the hospital or clinical services and another is athletics. There is no question that is a very high priority for us.”

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