At a meeting Monday in Downtown Tampa, the committee tasked with finding a new athletic director to replace Mark Harlan, who left USF for the same position at Utah, said it hoped to present a candidate to President Judy Genshaft later in the week.
Less than 24 hours later, USF announced the hire of Michael Kelly, its newest Vice President of Athletics.
While Kelly’s official title, vice president of athletics, is different than athletic director, USF spokesman, Adam Freeman, said the name does not change any of the duties. Kelly will have all the responsibilities of an athletic director and he has plenty of experience to back it up.
“I am truly honored to return to the University of South Florida and Tampa Bay,” Kelly said in a press release. “I can’t wait to get started with our student-athletes, coaches, staff, Bulls fans, donors and alumni everywhere.”
Kelly was selected as the College Football Playoff’s (CFP) Chief Operating Officer in Nov. 2012. He has held that position until now and will be leaving it to return to USF.
“Michael’s ties to the Tampa Bay area make him a natural for this position,” Executive Director of the CFP Bill Hancock said. “He has seen it all and done it all. He is an extraordinary people person and has earned the respect of everyone who works with him. Of course, his creativity, work ethic and experience have been instrumental to the success of the College Football Playoff.”
Kelly has direct ties with USF Athletics. In 2001, he was hired by then-athletic director Paul Griffin before Lee Roy Selmon took over later that year. He was named USF’s associate athletic director for external affairs then and, according to a press release, specialized in development, ticket sales, corporate sponsorships, marketing, broadcasting and licensing.
Kelly also helped USF Football transition to Division 1-A. He led fundraising efforts for a new athletic center — a task that will be on his agenda with his current position.
In addition to helping USF break into NCAA Football’s top tier, Kelly has plenty of experience in the Tampa Bay Area. According to the press release, he is the only person ever to serve as lead local executive for three different Super Bowls in as many communities.
He was the president of the Super Bowl host committees in Tampa Bay (Super Bowl XXXV), Jacksonville (Super Bowl XXXIX) and South Florida (Super Bowl XLI). He also helped organize the 1999 Men’s Basketball Final Four games at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.
Kelly served as a senior associate commissioner of the ACC from 2007-2012 where he oversaw football, broadcasting and communications before working with the CFP.
The announcement was met with delight from people within USF Athletics as well as members of the Tampa community.
“Great guy,” tweeted Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. “Product of Tampa. Welcome home Michael.”
USF baseball coach Billy Mohl also shared his enthusiasm over Twitter:
“Great day to be a bull! Welcome back @MKellyCFP Looking forward to working with you! #GoBulls”
Rob Higgins, who was initially thought by many to be a top candidate for the position, called USF’s decision “the perfect hire,” in a tweet. Kelly also received some national recognition from ESPN’s College GameDay analyst Kirk Herbstreit.
Details on Kelly’s contract with USF were not made available to The Oracle on Tuesday evening. USF will officially introduce Kelly at a news conference Friday.
“Michael Kelly is the perfect person to take USF Athletics to the next level in every way,” search committee leader Bill Sutton said in the release. “During the search process, I’ve been impressed by his knowledge of the university, our communities and his clear desire to be selected for this role. Combined with Michael’s extraordinary experience and the relationships he’s built across the country, he’s exactly who we need to position USF Athletics for future success.”