A consultant working to help the University of South Florida find its next president said Thursday he’s in conversation with 50 “targets” for the job.
Alberto Pimentel, head of SP&A Executive Search, said he aims to keep the USF search on its timeline to begin interviewing candidates by March — when the University of Florida will begin its search process.
“We were out to market first,” Pimentel said. “So we’re a little bit ahead.”
Across the country, he said, a number of university president positions are open, and some of the 50 people talking to USF are involved in other searches. But he added that only a few schools may be in direct competition with USF: the University of Colorado, the University of Michigan and University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Within the state, the University of North Florida in Jacksonville and Florida International University in Miami also are searching for new presidents.
At USF, the pool of 50 people is made up of presidents, provosts and deans of top research schools and former academic leaders working with foundations, corporations or government entities, Pimentel said. He said he expects that group to narrow and other names to emerge closer to the end of the search.
Because those in the latter group have not formally applied, they are exempt from public record laws.
A new bill being debated in Tallahassee could change the law to require only a group of finalists to be disclosed. Bill sponsor Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, said search firms have been used to circumvent the law anyway.
While Pimentel has been in touch with 50 people, fewer than a dozen have handed in applications, he said. He told members of the USF presidential search committee Thursday not to be discouraged by the caliber of the applicants so far because they were not recruited.
“You don’t usually get people self-nominating or applying on their own,” Pimentel said. “They wait to be invited ... That first batch of individuals that apply don’t always meet all the criteria you’re looking for. But these are not the individuals who were invited, these are the individuals who are self-motivated. But they are candidates, so I need you to take a look at them.”
The university did not immediately release the applications after the Tampa Bay Times requested them Thursday.
Pimentel said the speed of the search will accelerate or slow down based on the way the committee feels about the candidates.
“You’ve got a great interim president doing a fantastic job,” he said, referring to Rhea Law, who became USF’s interim president after Steve Currall stepped down last summer. “There’s no need to settle.”