TAMPA — After struggling for eight seasons to find consistency or even a postseason berth, University of South Florida baseball coach Lelo Prado is stepping down to take an administrative role with the school.
Athletic director Mark Harlan announced Monday that Prado, 51, has accepted the job of associate athletic director for administration and external services when the baseball season ends. Harlan said the transition is the result of "ongoing conversations" that the two started shortly after Harlan's hiring in mid March.
"I was going to do it anyway in a couple of years and I got a great opportunity," Prado said.
Prado, 250-291 at USF, will coach the No. 5-seeded Bulls (26-29) in this week's American Athletic Conference tournament in Clearwater, and a national search for his replacement will commence immediately. No search firm will be used.
"He's turning over this program in such a great situation for the next person who will come in," Harlan said.
A Cuba native reared in Tampa, Prado was in the final year of a contract that paid $132,500 annually. He signed a three-year extension in November 2011, in the wake of consecutive losing seasons.
The program seemed poised for a breakthrough this spring, and Prado said in the preseason nothing less than an NCAA region berth would suffice. But the Bulls struggled at the plate (.260 team batting average, conference-low nine home runs), and consistently failed to get timely hits.
Seventeen of USF's losses have been by two or fewer runs, including seven one-run defeats.
"This program's right there to make something happen with a couple of new recruits and a couple of additions to the program," said Prado, who won consecutive national titles at the University of Tampa (1992-93) and later directed Louisville to its first NCAA region.
"I'm leaving it in great hands. A couple of hits here and there and we've got 40 wins."
In his new role, Prado will serve as the "eyes and ears" for Harlan and deputy AD Barry Clements, and work extensively in marketing and fundraising, Harlan said.
"We need to attach ourselves to this community in a much more profound, organized way," Harlan said, "and he's just an ideal fit for that."