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Who replaces Mark Harlan at USF? Here are 5 names to remember

Some prominent local names have been connected to USF's athletic-director vacancy
Former Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks shares a laugh with Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn at a luncheon last year.
(TIMES FILES -- 2017)
Former Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks shares a laugh with Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn at a luncheon last year. (TIMES FILES -- 2017)
Published Jun. 2, 2018

News of USF athletic director Mark Harlan's departure Friday for the same job at Utah barely had hit cyberspace when speculation over his replacement began percolating.

Only stands to reason, and who are we to put a lid on the speculation? After all, someone's got to fill the position.

So without further delay, here are five names (in alphabetical order) generating a lot of buzz for the job.

Derrick Brooks, Pro Football Hall of Famer (and co-founder of Brooks-DeBartolo Collegiate High School)
The closest thing this town currently has to Lee Roy Selmon, whose named is immortalized on USF's athletics center. A Buccaneers icon, Brooks' name alone will generate badly needed donations, and it's well known he already has been lending Charlie Strong a hand with fundraising for the proposed USF Football Center. If there's a downside, Brooks never has served as a collegiate administrator. Then again, he more than meets the primary prerequisite (fundraising chops).

Barry Clements, USF executive deputy athletic director
To be sure, Clements, who has served darn near every administrative role at USF in 35 years at the school, has paid his dues. We're also told he has a ton of behind-the-scenes support for this job. If USF were in a better position financially, we'd consider Clements the front-runner (at least among internal candidates). But the Bulls need a formidable fundraiser at this point.

Ken Eriksen, USF softball coach
A USF lifer if there ever was one, Eriksen has led the Bulls to 13 NCAA Tournament appearances in 21 seasons. Toss in his wealth of international experience and dealings with the United States Olympic Committee, and he's got some political savvy — a must for any big-time AD. If any part of USF's proverbial house needed cleaning, Eriksen — who first arrived at USF as a baseball player in 1979 — would know where to point the broom.

Rob Higgins, Tampa Bay Sports Commission executive director
A USF alumnus, Higgins has evolved into one of the bay area's most respected sports figures, thanks to his group's indefatigable efforts to land a constellation of marquee events (2017 College Football Playoff title game, 2021 Super Bowl, three Women's Final Fours, NHL All-Star Game). Working in his favor: energy, creativity, passion for his alma mater and myriad national connections. Working against him: We haven't come up with anything.

Tom Jurich, former Louisville athletic director
Before his dismissal at Louisville, amid a national federal corruption probe of college hoops, Jurich was among the nation's most respected ADs. To many, he still is (and don't forget, he hired Charlie Strong at Louisville). While we're not denying Jurich (who has a place in Clearwater) could provide a shot in the arm to USF, we just can't see President Dr. Judy Genshaft hiring someone with NCAA baggage.