In what surely was a vote of confidence for Mark Harlan (Athletic Director of the University of South Florida Bulls) he was given an extension that will take his contract all the way in to the year of 2021. It is hard to argue with the extension as Harlan as been instrumental in many ways both on the playing fields and in bringing newfound energy to the Bulls program. Consider the women’s basketball team at USF, who had yet another successful season finishing a very respectable 26-8 as well as notching a 13-3 conference record.
However, oftentimes at major college athletic programs the Athletic Director is judged primarily on their football acumen. Well, Harlan surely delivered in that regard. He brought in highly regarded coach Charlie Strong to coach the Bulls and in Strong’s first season the Bulls finished 10-2 and won their bowl game. Hiring Strong to replace Willie Taggart (who now resides at Florida State) was impressive enough, but fans and Harlan are likely expecting the Bulls to take an even further leap forward this season and it is certainly hard not to feel optimism. The Bulls football team opens up the season against Elon (an FCS opponent) at home before taking on the Yellow Jackets of Georgia Teach the following week in their first real test of the season.
It’s hard to point to an area where University of South Florida athletics has regressed under Harlan — and that above all else is likely the reason he got this extension. As fans, we are constantly calling for revolutionary change and fast improvements — but the nature of college athletics is that it takes time to institute a proper system, and so far it seems Mark Harlan has checked every box in that regard. Additionally as a cherry on top the USF athletes have been improving their marks off the field in the classroom as well — proving that academic success can be couple with on the field excellence.
While it’s impossible to say for certain what the direction of USF athletics will be in the future, all indications have this program trending upwards — and fans should be excited!