Yesterday, AD Mark Harlan presented a 5-year strategic plan to the Board of Trustees, laying out some groundwork for the future for athletics and plans they are preparing. Joey Knight of the Tampa Bay Times had a great summary as well of the presentation. Here are some of my thoughts.
There is a lot to get through, but let’s hit the big three (at least in my eyes). First, the on campus stadium, something fans have wanted for a long time. Well, after reading the report and Knight’s report, an OCS isn’t coming anytime soon. According to Harlan, the feasibility study is still ongoing as they continue to not only search for the best location (the MOSI area isn’t a slam dunk no matter how much people want it to be) but more importantly, how much it would cost athletics, which leads me to the second area, money.
Harlan pointed out that the number of donors has increased since he joined USF over two years ago, but that hasn’t brought the huge corporate dollars needed to build new facilities that everyone is always calling for. Harlan noted the income from the conference has been down the last few years as well, showing a bigger need for the big donations and corporate sponsors to help kick in the cash needed for athletics. While ticket sales are great, the need for a huge cash infusion is also needed.
The final piece was about the never ending saga of conferences and expansion. There have been multiple reports out there about the Big 12 and it’s expansion talks and who would be linked to it. Well, Harlan really didn’t address anything specifically yesterday (as expected) but he did state “If there’s a conference that’s for us and improves these things (money, facilities, etc.), then we’re gonna go for it.” What does that mean? It means Harlan and athletics are not digging their heads into the sand when it comes to conference realignment. Instead it means they are listening to everything that is going on out there. While we shouldn’t expect annual road trips to Austin anytime soon, it doesn’t mean they are slamming the door on the idea and the phones are still working on Fowler.
And one last final note was the plan to add a 20th sport to athletics, women’s rowing, which would be based at the Sarasota campus location. I think it’s a great idea and taps into the aquatic sports that are huge up and down not only our west coast but in Florida overall.
So, overall the plan shows that USF is working hard in multiple areas, both in listening and watching the realignment shifts, studying the possibility of an OCS, and laying out the economic needs of athletics. They are working hard over in athletics and this 5-year plan shows the amount of work they are hoping to accomplish over the next few years.