Alabama has hired Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne, long considered an up-and-comer in collegiate athletics, to replace current AD and Crimson Tide alum Bill Battle. By all accounts, it’s considered a great hire.
If Alabama has snagged @Greg_Byrne it’s a hire on par with Saban himself.— Steven Godfrey (@38Godfrey) January 16, 2017
So why are we writing about this on a USF blog?
Mark Harlan is an Arizona alum. Bachelors and masters degrees. And his alma mater is a PAC-12 job with things like “money” and “budgets” and “fan support” on a much larger scale than what USF has to offer. We wouldn’t blame him one bit if he took the job. When home calls, you always have to listen.
And though the timing on this could be worse (like, say, about five weeks ago when USF needed to hire a new football coach), it’s still pretty bad for the Bulls right now.
When Arizona confirmed the transfer of Byrne, they put no timetable on a replacement. And that makes sense because the university president that would be doing the hiring is... how do we put this kindly... embattled. Sitting on the board of a for-profit college under federal investigation and making an extra $170k a year for doing so while being paid $475k per year by your non-profit college tends to do that.
So it’s very possible Arizona goes with their interim athletic director Erika Hanson Barnes for an extended period of time. They might even wait to hire their new president (projected presently to happen this summer) before hiring a new AD. But it would appear they are in no rush.
However USF needs a new men’s basketball coach in early April at latest. And if you think the guy that’s hiring you might be on his way to Tuscon soon... wouldn’t that be a factor in considering taking a job if you’re a qualified candidate? How can you hit a home run with your hire if the guy that might be the leader for the job right now could be in the desert soon?
This certainly isn’t Harlan’s fault, and he didn’t immediately return mine or Joey Knight’s text messages asking him about this. I even included a joke and an emoticon in mine, but no dice. And if I’m him I wouldn’t have texted us back either since... what exactly is he going to say? Unless it’s an outright denial that he doesn’t want the job (which seems quite unlikely), all he can say is “I’m committed to making USF the best it can be and I’m excited for our future” yada yada yada. And even then we’ll be somewhat skeptical. It’s one of those spots where there’s no good answer no matter the truth.
Hiring a good basketball coach at USF was going to be tough anyway, with the zero conference championships in 46 seasons and a Sun Dome so empty on most nights you can hear the ball dribbled from the top row of the upper deck. You’ll likely have to be recruiting someone to take the job.
And that might be much more difficult while Arizona is deservedly considering the guy doing the recruiting.