Our infamous odds boards for major USF Athletics hirings like football coaches and athletic directors have become a Voodoo Five staple, and something we're proud to have brought to the conversation. Anything that combines our beloved alma mater with degenerate gambling is right up our alley. However on this one all we have is names we're hearing, but no idea who will actually get the job.
There's a few reasons for that, but the biggest is we just don't know Mark Harlan. We haven't seen how he runs an athletic department, nor how he plans to shape the future of the Bulls. The trends and history in place which we use to help shape our opinions on these things just aren't there this time. He's also never been an AD before, and there's no track record to follow. It's a totally blank slate, so we're all just following wherever the whispers might lead.
When we do an odds board, we tend to have a pretty good idea of what's coming (check the links above to see we've been pretty good before... we had Willie Taggart as the chalk and Mark Harlan at 6-1 in a deep field). But that just isn't true this time, so instead we're just going to list the candidates we've heard either today or tomorrow.
One thing to keep in mind here: the hot rumor is USF is going to spend some coin on this hire. Where the cash is coming from we have no idea, but we're assuming it's a combination of Big East exit fee money and some major gifts from local philanthropists. The budget numbers have been quite poor lately (we'll get to that later this week, but the money coming into the department is actually less year-over-year when factoring out the students athletic fee contribution). The standard USF hire here would be to get an assistant from a bigger program or give a low-major guy with a good track record a bigger shot. But from what we know, that's not happening this time.
And if this is true, well then thank the Lord Almighty. I'd argue no team in the history of college athletics has needed some splash and some sizzle more than USF. Fowler Avenue has absolutely no buzz in this community right now, and we agree with everything said here and here and here. Someone has to awaken this community and have it focus on the hometown school once again. And it needs to happen right now.
This is a much better job than when Stan Heath took it seven years ago. The Muma Center is a great practice facility, and the Sun Dome rehab is wonderful. You're in a much easier conference where being expected to compete near the top isn't a pipe dream. Not having Syracuse, Pitt, Louisville and many of the current Big East schools dotting your schedule makes winning a lot easier, yet it's still a good enough league where 20ish wins can get you an NCAA bid. That's right in the sweet spot where USF can be expected to consistently compete over the long term. You're also inheriting a point guard that (when healthy) is a true weapon, and two All-AAC Freshman Team members. If you can keep the roster intact, you can start winning immediately with the right system.
The biggest issue around the program is the continuing lack of fan and donor support. USF was a member of the best basketball conference in America for eight years, and never came anywhere near consistently filling the building. You shouldn't ever be able to get sideline seats with a parking pass to see Top 10 teams for $5 on StubHub, but that was the normal here during the BCS Era. So many of the people in the donor seats on the North sideline have been there since Charlie Bradley was getting buckets, and they simply aren't being replaced by newer and younger donors and supporters.
USF Basketball can be relevant in Tampa Bay once again. Anyone that was at the West Virginia game at the Forum two years ago to close the season can attest to a real college hoops atmosphere, with almost 10,000 fans loud and proud cheering on a loss which would be soon forgotten due to the glorious 2012 NCAA run. It was an anomaly, but showed it's possible. This city and alumni base will support a winner.
Someone has to make this community care about college basketball like that every season. And that someone needs to be the next head coach of the Bulls.