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USF is on the hunt for a new athletic director after Harlan’s exit

Former USF Athletic Director Mark Harlan. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/GOUSFBULLS.COM

After former USF Athletic Director Mark Harlan’s departure to fill the same position at the University of Utah on Friday morning, USF named Scott Kull the interim AD while it searches for a permanent replacement.

“In a short period of time, Scott (Kull) has made a great impact on our athletic department,”  USF System President Judy Genshaft said in a statement released by the school. “He understands the trajectory of USF Athletics and will ensure that we continue moving forward without interruption during the search process.”

Kull was USF’s deputy athletic director for external operations before moving into his current role. He has about 15 years of experience with college athletics administration, which included working at in-state powerhouses Florida and Florida State, as well as Ohio State and Georgia Tech. It has been made clear that while Kull is a valued member of USF Athletics, his position is only temporary.

USF announced Monday it will hire a search firm that will find someone who will be, according to Genshaft, “a transformative leader.” Professor Bill Sutton is the director of the Vinik Sport & Entertainment Management Program at USF and will lead the search for a new AD.

USF has not announced which search firm it will use to find a new AD, but used Eastman & Beaudine, Inc. to hire Harlan in 2014.

Another firm popular among college athletic programs is Parker Executive Search. The company helped UCF hire Scott Frost as coach of its football team. Frost coached the team from zero wins to going undefeated in just two seasons. He took the helm in 2016 after UCF failed to win a single game and in his second season led the Golden Knights to a perfect record and a self-proclaimed national championship. Frost left UCF to coach at Nebraska after the 2017 season.

UCF’s use of Parker Executive Search gave it the opportunity to find and hire Frost, who was able to improve a failing program.

USF’s situation is different though. Mainly, it is not looking to hire a single coach, but an athletic director responsible for all sports programs at the school. It is also worth noting that USF, while performing below preseason expectations in baseball, softball, women’s basketball and football, does not feature an abundance of failing sports programs.

USF’s football team was projected to win the AAC Championship for the first time in program history, but lost to conference opponents Houston and UCF last season. Both the softball and baseball teams earned NCAA Tournament bids, but were eliminated in the regional round of each tournament. The women’s basketball team was the No. 6 seed in the 2018 NCAA Tournament, but lost in the first round to No. 11 Buffalo.

There are, however, some programs that underperform with even the lowest expectations. The new athletic director will be tasked with rebuilding these programs. Men’s basketball, under second-year coach Brian Gregory will look for support from the new administrative position.

USF men’s basketball was projected to finish at the bottom of the AAC. It finished last in the conference with a 3-15 conference record.

A stipulation in Harlan’s most recent contract with USF involves a hefty fine. Since Harlan resigned before July 1, 2020, he must pay the university $262,500, which is half of one year’s salary in the agreement.

Though Harlan’s departure came suddenly, discussions about potential replacements are  already in process.

While many factors will go into deciding who the new AD will be, Genshaft will give the final stamp of approval. USF has given no indication of who it will pursue with the upcoming hire, nor has it established a timeline for when the new AD will be announced.