TAMPA — His holidays took him from the Commonwealth to Cleveland to the carousels of the Magic Kingdom. At the end of the family centric adventure, Doug Woolard said he came to a realization.
He wanted more of it.
Upon returning to his office at the dawn of 2014, USF's 10th-year athletic director met with school president Judy Genshaft about formulating a succession plan so he could retire. On Thursday, the school announced Woolard will depart when his contract expires in June 2015.
"I just realized (the family time) is something I'm enjoying and will have a chance to do a lot more of this in the future," said Woolard, a 63-year-old dad of two and grandfather of two.
"I've been doing this for over 40 years and realized it was the time to be able to still enjoy those things."
In his first interview since Thursday's announcement, Woolard said the retirement wasn't forced upon him despite growing public discord over the Bulls' struggles in football and men's basketball.
He said he'll remain in his current capacity until his replacement is found, assist with the transition, then work with Genshaft on special projects until his contract expires.
"I think it's the right time. It feels right," Woolard said. "I want to be able to help the university in that (regard), so I think we landed on something that's a very, very good transition."
USF spokeswoman Lara Wade said Friday that the school plans to work with a search firm in finding Woolard's successor, though no contract has been finalized. The school is in the process of creating a job description for the official posting.
Just how instrumental Woolard will be in selecting his successor remains unclear.
"We really haven't had a chance to talk about the details," he said. "I just know (Genshaft) is very interested in me helping throughout the transition. I certainly told her I'd be more than happy to do that."
In the wake of the retirement announcement, Twitter time lines were overrun with calls for the Bulls to hire alumnus Rob Higgins. Currently the executive director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission, Higgins, 35, declined comment on Friday.
A former manager for the Bulls men's basketball team, Higgins' group has brought marquee college sports events to the area. His detailed, outside-the-box bid presentations have been critical in winning over NCAA officials.
Next year, the Tampa Bay Times Forum will host the women's basketball Final Four for the second time in eight seasons. In 2016, it will host the men's hockey Frozen Four for the second time in five seasons. And in 2017, Raymond James Stadium will host football's national championship game.
"He's one of those guys you're willing to do things for because he's such a good guy," former Bucs star Ronde Barber said last year. "I've never said no to him, actually."
Former Lynn University AD John McCarthy, now a national college athletics consultant, said the evolution of the position calls for someone capable primarily of galvanizing boosters and raising money. If that someone has local connections, all the better.
"South Florida has become a major player in the college landscape, so I would think they're going to look at a national search right away," he said.
"Having said that, when they run the national search, if there is someone that has ties … to the community with that ability to raise money as well as strong administrative leadership capabilities, I would think that would be an advantage."
Woolard says there's another critical prerequisite:
"Somebody who cares about student-athletes."
Joey Knight can be reached at [email protected]