Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

USF's new AD will have work cut out for him

Where does a man begin to repair a broken athletic program?

The football program is in the ditch. The basketball program is on blocks in the yard. The university is on the verge of becoming one of those forgettable programs that is lost in a forgettable conference.

So welcome Mark Harlan to town and get out of his way.

After all, the guy has work to do.

If the reports that Harlan is indeed the new athletic director at USF are true (he could be approved this morning), then it is time for him to get after it. So many things are wrong with this program, and so much momentum has been lost along the way, and no one knows it more than those who care the most.

Where does a new athletic director start?

By raising money, perhaps? Oh, that's important, of course. No one is forgetting that college football is a big business, and cash is the oil for the engine.

By better marketing? That's important, too. Over the past few years, the profile of USF athletics seems to have faded. So, yeah, a few more billboards would help. A little more ambition would be nice.

But for Harlan, or for any potential athletic director, the main challenge is this.

Somehow, USF athletics has to matter. When someone mentions the Bulls, you have to think of passion and excellence. Players have to enter your mind. It has to sound fun.

Sadly, it does not these days. USF has become just another program where not a lot is going on, where its achievement is still about 40 yards shy of its ambition. Somewhere along the way, the Bulls have become an afterthought of a program. On the national landscape, they have become the invisi-bulls.

Be honest. Over the course of the day, how often do you think about USF athletics? Yeah, you may fret about the Bucs' pass rush and the Rays' hitting and the Lightning slump and free agency and opening day and the playoff race. But the Bulls have played themselves out of your consciousness.

That needs to change.

It's a shame. The Bulls worked hard — and fast — to establish themselves as something more than a McNeese State, more than a Florida Atlantic. On the other hand, USF lost football games to both programs last year. Sheesh. It's going in the wrong direction.

For instance, the Bulls football program has won 10 games over its past three seasons. The team never finished better than 4-3 in eight seasons in the Big East. Last year, the team was 2-10 in this pre-fab gaggle called the American Athletic Conference, for crying out loud.

As a program, USF is still too young to have real tradition. But, there for a while, it had established a nice reputation as a dragon slayer, as a team that could shock some fairly impressive programs such as FSU, Auburn, Notre Dame, and others. It was an overachiever back then. Now it has become an underachiever.

Even considering its finest Saturdays, USF never has had a signature season. For instance, it has never been ranked in the top 25 at the end of a year, not even the year it was ranked as high as No. 2. Only twice in the history of its program has it had a first-round draft choice. Last year, according to the Anderson-Hester poll, it finished as the 108th best team in the nation.

And now? It has fallen behind UCF as far as momentum.

In other words, the standards need raising. Look, I like Willie Taggart as much as anyone, and he has had only one year to change things. But going 2-10 is, technically, a bad thing.

And how about the basketball team? Three years ago, Stan Heath had this team in the NCAA Tournament, but it has lost a lot of impetus over the past two years with back-to-back 12-win seasons. As for that NCAA appearance, it was the only one for USF in the past 22 seasons. That isn't enough.

For USF, this seems to be a crucial time in the history of the program. Do the Bulls accept their fate at the bottom of the American conference? Or do they use a new athletic director as an influx of energy?

There is still a school of thought out there that the Big 12 might eventually expand. If so, USF needs to be on the porch waiting. It needs to have all of its advantages — size of the TV market, the recruiting base, the potential of the program — on display. And it needs to be competitive.

A stadium on campus? USF needs to consider that, too. Maybe it would fuel the passion for the program. If nothing else, the Bulls need to at least consider the opportunity.

In other words, there is a lot of work to be done for a new athletic director. This program needs leadership. It needs direction.

It needs substance.

It needs weight.

More than anything, it needs to matter.

Harlan hiring today?

USF's athletic director search committee is slated to meet this morning, presumably to approve the hiring of UCLA's Mark Harlan. A senior associate AD for the Bruins, Harlan has been tabbed by the Texas-based search firm hired by USF to replace retiring AD Doug Woolard, according to reports from the West Coast. The six-member committee, which includes Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, meets at 11 a.m. at the Selmon Athletic Center.

USF's new AD will have work cut out for him 03/10/14 [Last modified: Monday, March 10, 2014 11:06pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rowdies settle for draw at home

    Soccer

    ST. PETERSBURG — The good news for the Rowdies is that they still haven't lost a game at Al Lang Stadium since late April. The bad news is they had to settle for a 1-1 tie against Ottawa on Saturday night in front of 6,710 sweaty fans.

  2. Bats come to life, but Rays' freefall continues (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG —The six runs seemed like a ton, just the second time the Rays had scored that many in a game during their numbing two-plus-weeks stretch of offensive impotency, and amazingly, the first time at the Trop in nearly two months.

    Lucas Duda connects for a two-run home run in the sixth, getting the Rays within 7-5. A Logan Morrison home run in the ninth made it 7-6, but Tampa Bay couldn’t complete the comeback.
  3. Rays journal: Cesar Puello, who has one major-league game, claimed off waivers

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Looking to add punch to their right-handed lineup, the Rays claimed OF Cesar Puello off waivers Saturday from the Angels.

  4. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Saturday's Rays-Mariners game

    The Heater

    SS Adeiny Hechavarria doesn't always look like he's going hard, but he showed impressive reactions Saturday in reversing field to catch a ball that clanked off the catwalk then firing to second to double up Guillermo Heredia on an attempt to tag up.

  5. Bucs journal: Simeon Rice gives master class on sacks to defensive ends

    Bucs

    TAMPA — As the Bucs seek their first 10-sack season from a player since Simeon Rice in 2005, who better to help that cause than Rice himself?

    Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers great Simeon Rice works with defensive end Noah Spence (57) after practice at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017.