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2 considered for interim post at USF

The decision of who will be interim president at the University of South Florida apparently has narrowed to two candidates: a veteran administrator from the state university system and a prominent local lawyer.

Chancellor Charles Reed said Tuesday that he probably will announce his choice to the state Board of Regents during a special meeting next week, although that is not a firm deadline.

Reed declined to discuss his decision, but he did confirm that the names of Robert Bryan and William Reece Smith Jr. have been suggested to him more often than anyone else's. Asked if his choice likely would be one of those two men, he said yes.

Bryan is a veteran professor and administrator from the University of Florida who has served Reed as an interim president twice, at UF and at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. Widely respected by the regents, he is retired and living in Gainesville.

Smith also has been an interim president, at USF, in the mid-1970s, between the administrations of Cecil Mackey and John Lott Brown. Many on campus remember Smith fondly from that time, and, as a longtime leader in Tampa's business and legal community, he also is seen as a person of stature whose loyalty and commitment to USF is unquestioned.

At least one regent said he would be happy with either choice.

Whoever becomes interim president will be responsible for USF during the search for a permanent successor to outgoing president Frank Borkowski _ a process that is expected to take about six months.

Borkowski, who resigned last month after a year of turmoil, will leave USF on July 9, although technically he will remain president through July 31, Reed said.

Consequently, Reed said, he has felt little pressure to name an interim president quickly. Instead he has concentrated on putting together the committee of campus and community leaders who will manage the search for a permanent president. The search committee is charged with sending a list of finalists to Reed and the regents.

Reed wants to announce the members of the search committee before he names an interim president. At other state universities, presidential search committees have had several dozen members, and Reed said he has tried hard to make this one a good balance of gender, race and ethnicity, with a mix of campus and community leaders, including some from USF's regional campuses.

In recent weeks, some campus and community leaders have urged Reed to pick someone local to be the interim president.

State Rep. Jim Davis of Tampa was among those who recommended Smith. "He commands such widespread respect in our local community," Davis said, adding that USF supporters want to be sure the interim president remains a strong advocate for the local university.

Davis said he wouldn't "go so far as to tell (Reed) whom to pick among two people." He just wanted to make sure that Reed didn't automatically "gravitate toward the people he's most familiar with."

Bryan fits that description, for both Reed and the regents. Bryan was so popular as interim president at the University of Florida that some boosters tried to get him to stay for good. He also got good reviews at UCF, where many people were initially skeptical of someone sent in from Gainesville.

Regent Cecil Keene of St. Petersburg said regents like Bryan for his straight-talking independence. "I don't know of any person more on his own (who says what he thinks) than Bob Bryan," Keene said.

But Keene said he would be happy with Smith as well.

Regent Clint Brown of Tampa, meanwhile, said he didn't know of any resistance to Bryan among members of the board.