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USF extends Mark Harlan’s contract

The Bulls athletic director recently entered the final year of the original five-year contract he signed in 2014.
USF athletic director Mark Harlan's newly extended contract could keep him at the school through the 2020-21 school year. (OCTAVIO JONES | Times)
USF athletic director Mark Harlan's newly extended contract could keep him at the school through the 2020-21 school year. (OCTAVIO JONES | Times)
Published Apr. 24, 2018
Updated Apr. 24, 2018

As expected, USF athletic director Mark Harlan has signed a contract extension that will keep him at the school through the 2020-21 school year.

Harlan recently entered the final year of the original five-year deal he signed in March 2014 that paid him $500,000 annually. Under this "continuing three-year contract," he'll receive $525,000 a year.

He'll also be eligible for a stipend of up to $150,000 annually if he meets certain performance goals connected to fundraising, improving USF's conference position and devising a "measurable plan" for improving attendance at major Bulls sporting events, among other objectives.

If he resigns before July 1, 2020, he would owe USF $262,500 — an amount equal to half his base salary.

"Mark has done a terrific job of implementing a strategic vision for USF Athletics and cultivating a top-level environment in which our student-athletes are thriving and achieving great success in the classroom and in competition," USF president Dr. Judy Genshaft said in a statement released by the university.

"I look forward to continued excellence in USF Athletics under Mark's leadership."

In the same news release, Harlan, a Los Angeles native who previously served as a UCLA's senior associate AD for external relations, said he was "thankful" and "humbled" by the support of Genshaft and the USF Board of Trustees.

"I am committed to working hard with the finest staff, coaches and student-athletes in the country as we work to ensure that every student-athlete has a world-class experience at USF."

On Harlan's watch, USF's football program has been resuscitated, winning 29 games and two Birmingham Bowls over the past three seasons. Harlan has been credited for sticking with once-beleaguered coach Willie Taggart, who won 17 of his last 21 games; and hiring Charlie Strong when Taggart left for Oregon in late 2016.

Related: Hiring Charlie Strong is USF AD Mark Harlan's biggest decision; will it be his best?

He also has re-upped the contract of highly successful women's basketball coach Jose Fernandez twice in the last three seasons, and brought in former baseball coach Mark Kingston, who guided the Bulls two a pair of NCAA Tournaments in three years before going to South Carolina in 2017.

In all, the Bulls have earned 13 conference championships since 2014, including four in the 2016-17 season that marked the program's most since 2000. Nine programs have achieved a top-25 national ranking during Harlan's tenure.

Moreover, USF student-athletes have achieved a cumulative GPA above 3.0 for six consecutive semesters, and have posted a Graduation Success Rate above 80 percent four consecutive years, including a program-record 86 percent in 2016.

His glaring misstep: a botched men's basketball coaching search in 2014 in which his initial choice (Steve Masiello) was found to have used a falsified resume. Harlan later hired Orlando Antigua, whose abysmal tenure included a 17-48 record and NCAA probe that resulted in minor penalties.

Meantime, USF reported its best fundraising total in 2016-17, with most of that believed to be deferred gifts.  Nonetheless, it remains the only American Athletic Conference school with no indoor football practice facility in place or under construction.

Harlan reported recently that $9 million has been raised for USF's proposed $40 million football-exclusive facility, with $5 million of that from philanthropists Pam and Les Muma. Meantime, a sprawling feasibility study continues as the school explores the possibility of adding an on-campus football stadium.