TAMPA — As USF athletic director Doug Woolard begins the task of finding a successor to Jim Leavitt as football coach, the Bulls have hired elite coaching headhunter Chuck Neinas to assist in the hiring process.
Neinas, who was involved in USF's athletic director search that resulted in Woolard being hired in 2004, has been involved in some of the most successful hires in college football, including Les Miles at LSU, Urban Meyer at Florida, Bob Stoops at Oklahoma and Mack Brown at Texas.
Woolard said he will work with executive associate athletic director Bill McGillis and former athletic director Lee Roy Selmon in finding a coach. Woolard said he will continue to take recommendations, nominations and applications before quickly narrowing the field and talking to candidates.
"It's wide-open," said Woolard, who said he will have a diverse pool of candidates with no restrictions — current college and pro head coaches as well as current assistant coaches in the college and pro ranks.
Neinas specializes in helping schools get in touch with coaching candidates and vice versa.
USF fired Leavitt on Friday after 13 seasons after a university investigation concluded he committed "serious violations" of USF's conduct policy, saying he grabbed walk-on running back Joel Miller by the throat, slapped him twice in the face during halftime of a Nov. 21 game against Louisville and lied about it.
This is the first football coaching search that Woolard has presided over, though he was involved in the search at Washington State in 1989 when Mike Price was hired.
College football's recruiting calendar, with national signing day on Feb. 3, creates an urgency in the hiring process, but Woolard said he isn't setting a specific timetable. The hire will be "as quick as possible, but as thorough as necessary." Woolard has a policy of not commenting on candidates or potential candidates during the hiring process.
One potential candidate for the Bulls was quickly taken off the market as former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville was hired Saturday as coach at Texas Tech.
Tuberville, who was the main speaker at USF's coaching clinic in the spring, was prominent among most media lists of speculative candidates for the Bulls.
And while it has been only a two days since Leavitt's firing, a huge vacancy on the college scene appears to have come open with reports of Southern California's Pete Carroll leaving for the NFL's Seattle Seahawks. USC and USF aren't competing for the same candidates, but the domino effect from the Trojans' hire could interfere with the Bulls' search.
Top potential candidates for USF include former Clemson coach Tommy Bowden, former USF assistant and current Florida defensive line coach Dan McCarney, East Carolina coach Skip Holtz, Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele and Michigan offensive coordinator Calvin Magee.