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Do Tom Jurich, Jeff Long fit criteria USF wants in a new athletic director?

Both are believed to be candidates in a process expected to wrap up by July 4.
USF is expected to have a new athletic director in place by July 4. (JIM DAMASKE | Times)
USF is expected to have a new athletic director in place by July 4. (JIM DAMASKE | Times)
Published Jun. 25, 2018

TAMPA — Although the search committee for USF's new athletic director wouldn't discuss specific candidates during its meeting Monday, the criteria they discussed shed some light on who might — and might not — be in the mix for a job expected to be filled by July 4.

USF wants a proven leader, preferably with previous AD experience, committee chair William Sutton reiterated in a conference room at the school's downtown Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation. That fits the description of two names regularly mentioned by insiders and those in the industry: former Louisville AD Tom Jurich and former Arkansas/Pitt AD Jeff Long.

Jurich also checks three other boxes Sutton mentioned, which helps explain why he has gained the backing of major boosters and some current USF coaches. He has local ties (a condo in Clearwater), a track record in fundraising and facilities (he helped expand the Cardinals' football stadium twice), and he has industry connections that could help in the next wave of conference realignment.

RELATED: Support growing for Tom Jurich to become Bulls' next AD

Perhaps Jurich's biggest success in two decades at Louisville was getting the Cardinals to rise from Conference USA to, eventually, the ACC. No Power Five conferences seem poised to expand, but that could change in the next seven years, when the Big 12's media rights deal expires and teams could be shuffling again.

"No one knows exactly how it's going to play out," Sutton said, "but we need somebody who's tuned into that and can get us in the conversation."

Jurich would do that, and the fact that he gave current Bulls football coach Charlie Strong his first head coaching job is another obvious advantage.

The question is whether possesses another trait mentioned Monday — the kind of "high integrity" and "above reproach" character Sutton said the Bulls are seeking.

RELATED: The pros and cons of Tom Jurich as potential USF AD candidate

Jurich's Louisville tenure included the hire of controversial football coach Bobby Petrino, two years after Long fired him at Arkansas for improperly hiring his mistress and then misleading the school about it. Jurich also oversaw a men's basketball program that saw its 2013 national title vacated because of a stripper scandal before being fired last fall in a backlash from the FBI's college basketball investigation.

"No dirty laundry. That's important…" Sutton said. "To do anything to undermine (USF's status as a preeminent university) would be crazy. We're going to be in a position where we're going to do the right thing for the right reasons, and that's what we're going to do."

After the 20-minute meeting, Sutton declined to say whether that benchmark disqualifies Jurich.

Long's resume doesn't have such glaring flaws. He led a self-sustaining athletic department at Arkansas and spearheaded a $160 million renovation of Razorback Stadium. He, too, has industry connections; he was the first chairman of the College Football Playoff's selection committee.

RELATED: USF considering former Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long

Long, who was dismissed in November amid ongoing football mediocrity, is also rumored to be in contention to become the next AD at Kansas.

Former Tennessee/Kansas State AD John Currie is another potential candidate who would give the Bulls the kind of high-profile hire they're believed to be seeking.

RELATED: USF athletic director search nearing its end

Although no candidates have interviewed on campus, a hire is expected soon. After revisiting the committee's criteria Monday, Sutton said he'll reevaluate the pool of candidates with the search firm before hopefully suggesting someone to president Judy Genshaft later this week.

Times staff writer Joey Knight contributed to this report.