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USF extends AD Mark Harlan’s contract, but is his departure inevitable?

Florida Football Insiders

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Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

There continues to be mostly good news on the athletics front at USF, including a football team that has become nationally relevant over the last couple of seasons. And as a byproduct, the man in charge of the department, Mark Harlan, has agreed to a contract extension to keep him with the Bulls program for the at least the next four years.

That’s the hope.

The reality is: as long as USF languishes, under-funded and without the American Athletic Conference able to garner significant revenue for it’s members, then the very real possibility of losing Harlan to a bigger conference school looms.

No different than numerous football coaches in the AAC who have bolted for “Power Five” jobs, like Willie Taggart, Scott Frost, Tom Herman, and Justin Fuente, AD’s are also in play for the same “promotion” to schools that have tens of millions of television and donation dollars flowing like a river into their budgets.

First here’s the official word from USF on Harlan’s new deal:

The extension comes as Harlan was about to enter the final year of his original contract from his March 2014 hire from Assistant AD at UCLA. In his four years, the Bulls football program has become a top 25 entity, again and that included Harlan being able to land Charlie Strong in December of 2016 to replace Taggart, when he left for Oregon.

The women’s basketball program continues to flourish and the baseball program is a Top 25 one, again, for the first time since the 1990s.

Those are all compelling things, but financial realities are financial realities. And USF, has a lower ceiling right, now without much near term hope of it changing.

And that translates into compensation remaining “on the outside looking in” from the bigger conferences.

For example, as this August of 2017 online compilation shows, most of the “Power Five” ADs make well over $700,000 a year and the top 15 of this list average over $1 million per year.

So, even with the Harlan extension and slight raise reportedly up $25k to $525,000 with bonuses possible, he’s is nowhere near those paying numbers.

Take into account that Charlie Strong was hired at an extreme discount for his first two years of his USF deal, because Texas is paying most of his $5 million salary, and Bulls fans ought to get concerned.

Concerned further, that Strong has been privately and at times, publicly, complaining to anyone who will listen, about USF’s lack of indoor practice and football only facilities. And he’s been frequently bringing up their charter travel, lack of attendance at Raymond James Stadium for games, etc., etc.

Further, according to one source close to things at USF, Strong constantly projects like a man biding his time until December, when his Texas money is up, and he, then, can jump back into an SEC, ACC, Big XII, etc. job again, for the same level of pay with all the facilities and budget.

And, if that happens in December, would Harlan look to bolt, especially for a Pac 12 or Big 12 opportunity, himself?

It’s possible.

For now, USF can feel “warm and fuzzy” that agreed to stay longer, but a bigger job comes calling? You have to believe he would look to leave.

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