Three days after Lee Roy Selmon announced he would take a six-week sabbatical to deal with a private health issue, speculation from USF coaches over who would be a suitable replacement if he doesn’t return came to a screeching halt Thursday.
President Judy Genshaft fired off an e-mail Thursday to athletic department staff and coaches expressing her disappointment in what she characterized as “reckless speculation … about leadership of USF athletics” on behalf of several USF coaches quoted in Thursday’s edition of the St. Petersburg Times.
In the story, four coaches said they believed the search for a new athletic director, if needed, should focus within USF’s current athletic department. They also indicated a possible replacement for Selmon could be Barbara Sparks-McGlinchy, USF’s senior associate athletic director.
She could not be reached for comment Thursday night.
In her e-mail Genshaft said, “There are no inside candidates to replace him. There are no outside candidates to replace him. There is no job opening … I trust there will not be continued speculation as we move forward.”
The e-mail evidently made an impact on coaches, as some were not completely sure what they could or could not say.
Softball coach Ken Eriksen said, “We’re under a no-comment order on that,” when asked about the impact Selmon had on his program.
Men’s tennis coach Don Barr would not speak about Selmon’s impact on his team either, but he did speak about Selmon’s concern with USF’s coaches as a whole. When Barr collapsed during a match in 2001, Selmon visited him while he was in the hospital.
“When I had my heart attack, Lee Roy came to the hospital quite a few times to see me,” Barr said. “It just demonstrates the personal interest he showed in the whole coaching staff.”
“Lee Roy’s one of the greatest people walking the face of this Earth,” said baseball coach Eddie Cardieri, who was one of the coaches who told the Times he believed the search for Selmon’s replacement should be conducted in-house. When asked to speak further to Selmon’s impact on his ability to recruit baseball players, Cardieri said, “I’m afraid to comment on that.”
Conversely, men’s soccer coach George Keifer had no problem discussing Selmon’s impact on his program.
“He would come and speak to the team, meet with recruits. A lot of times, you get recruits that would say, ‘Lee Roy’s the AD? We want to meet him,'” Keifer said. “Put it this way: We wouldn’t be where we are without him.”
Women’s basketball coach Jose Fernandez returned a phone call seeking comment Thursday night but would make none.
“Believe me, I wish I could,” said Fernandez, who in the Times’ report said he too would like to see an in-house candidate replace Selmon should he leave for good.
Women’s tennis coach Gigi Fernandez said she is not concerned about her program in the absence of Selmon, nor does she fear the athletics department will collapse without him.
“Everybody kind of runs their own little ship here,” she said. “Yes, we’re going to miss him, but I think it will be OK. USF athletics is not going to go down the drain if Lee Roy’s not there.”
Sparks-McGlinchy, along with associate athletic director Eric Costello, have been left in charge of day-to-day operations at the athletic department. They will report to Vice President of University Advancement Michael Rierson and USF’s Chief Financial Officer, Carl Carlucci during the six-week period.
In another e-mail sent out to athletics coaches and staff Thursday, Rierson said that he and Carlucci decided that Rierson would henceforth be the only spokesman for USF athletics.
The two will not take on any additional day-to-day tasks as they temporarily oversee the athletics department, Rierson said, but instead will serve as consultants to Sparks-McGlinchy and Costello.
“(Selmon) provided leadership, cohesion, focus and direction and our job is continuing to do that,” Rierson said in an interview Thursday night.