Dr. Earl Bennett. Photo: Courtesy of Vanderbilt Athletics
Vanderbilt football alumnus and current Executive Director for Player Development & Administration Dr. Earl Bennett has been selected to join the 2023-2024 cohort for the Southeastern Conference Opportunity Forum.
The SEC Opportunity Forum is one result of SEC Bylaw 23, a conference rule adopted by the SEC Presidents and Chancellors in 2021 to encourage, facilitate and assist member institutions in attracting, hiring and retaining individuals from historically underrepresented groups in the leadership of athletics departments, particularly in the roles of Athletics Director, Head Coach and Senior Woman Administrator as well as in positions that typically lead to those roles. It is designed to connect mid to senior-level administrators in the conference from the historically underrepresented groups with industry leaders, and assist them with advancement in the profession.
The four-part series of engagements for the new class will include in-person sessions at the SEC Office in Birmingham, the SEC Football Championship in Atlanta, the SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament in Nashville and the SEC Spring Meetings in Destin.
“The Southeastern Conference remains committed to the success of our institutional partners,” says SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey. “We join our member institutions in the quest to help prepare leaders in the field of athletics, and this program helps prepare the next generation of leaders to assume critical roles within athletic administration.”
Bennett, a Vanderbilt Hall of Famer and SEC Legend, is in his third season at his alma mater after joining Clark Lea‘s initial staff. In his player development role, Bennett helps oversee the holistic development of the team’s student-athletes. He helps coordinate the team’s efforts in personal development, career development and community service, among several other areas.
The Birmingham, Alabama, native was an All-SEC selection in all three seasons for the Commodores, collecting 2,852 career receiving yards and 20 touchdowns. He departed for the NFL as the SEC’s all-time leader in career receptions and still holds the Vanderbilt record for receiving touchdowns in a game with five against Kentucky in 2005.
His most famous reception was a 2005 touchdown catch with a minute and 11 seconds left in the game to defeat Tennessee,28-24, at Neyland Stadium, giving Vandy their first win over the Vols since 1982.
Bennett was a third-round pick by the Chicago Bears and spent five seasons in Chicago, catching 185 passes for 2,277 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Off the field, Bennett has earned both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Vanderbilt, and completed his PhD in education from the University of Houston in 2022.