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McCullum watch: At least Thursday ...



Ease up on that refresh button. Whichever side of the great Robert McCullum debate you're entrenched on, you won't likely get an answer from USF athletic director Doug Woolard until Thursday at the earliest.

Woolard left Tampa on Tuesday morning and flew to New York for Big East meetings and the league's men's basketball tournament, having not made a decision on whether he'll bring McCullum back for another season. It could be Thursday or Friday, I'm told, but an announcement might not even come this week.

I can tell you McCullum and his staff aren't sitting around waiting by the phone. They're operating as normal, on the road recruiting, trying to find the three recruits that will solidify USF's frontcourt, which needs depth (if not a starting power forward) for next season.

It's hard to try to get into Woolard's head, to anticipate his inclinations. If I talk to three people, I get three sound arguments in three different directions. I think public sentiment is against McCullum, but I also wonder how many of the people voting in online polls or typing away on message boards even went to a game this year. Not that those opinions aren't completely valid -- if anything, any move Woolard makes is one targeted at the people who aren't yet invested in USF basketball, who aren't going to games.

I know this: there is no sport that Woolard has a greater personal relationship with than men's basketball. He was a basketball coach almost as long as he's been a college administrator, and while he honestly has a genuine interest in all USF's sports, there are only two coaches who report directly to him, and only one of them is Jim Leavitt. This is a huge decision for him, one that will impact how he's perceived publicly. If he sticks with McCullum amid uncertainty for the second year in a row, he's putting himself in some serious scrutiny if USF isn't in the Big East tournament next season. If he lets him go, he'll be judged quickly on the success of a new (and likely unproven) coach who will inherit largely the same roster and the same fan base that McCullum has worked with for the past four years.

If you look at the past year, Woolard made two big decisions in letting longtime coaches Eddie Cardieri and Logan Fleck go. Both were well-liked, lacked the success other programs have enjoyed at USF. Does Lelo Prado's early success and the buzz surrounding his baseball debut make Woolard more likely to make a move here, to trust his instincts in identifying good coaches who are a match for his school and his budget? You hear it a lot that McCullum wasn't Woolard's hire, and while that's true, I don't think McCullum is far -- personally or professionally -- from the kind of coach Woolard would have hired had he come to USF two years earlier.

I think if Woolard had a clear-cut decision made, we would already be reading about it. And it's not like he's going off to a remote island to think on it -- he's going to Madison Square Garden, a place where his basketball team very visibly isn't. But does his waiting point toward McCullum staying? You'd think a move to dismiss a coach would want to seem clear-cut, emphatic, a first-thing-Monday-morning turn-the-page type deal. I can spin this both ways all day long and it seems to make sense in both directions.

I can't say what Woolard's going to do, and a lot of that has to do with objectivity and ethics and such, but a good part of it is simply not knowing, or even a belief that Woolard doesn't entirely know yet. We should know, one way or another, in the next few days ...

(Remind me sometime tomorrow to post about USF's football banquet on Saturday night.)

[Last modified: Thursday, May 27, 2010 11:20am]


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