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USF athletic director Mark Harlan headlines early candidate list for Greg Byrne’s replacement at Arizona

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If you want an alum running things at Arizona, here’s your guy

NCAA Football: South Florida-Charlie Strong Press Conference Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

With Greg Byrne leaving Arizona for Alabama, the attention now turns to who will replace him as the Wildcats’ athletic director?

On the surface, this looks like a search that will take some time. The University of Arizona currently has a lame duck president in Ann Weaver Hart, who will be leaving the position when her contract expires in 2018.

So, in all likelihood, Arizona will have to choose between hiring an A.D. first, or hiring a school president first.

But let’s just look at the athletic director position for now.

Whenever there’s a job opening in Tucson, fans clamor for an alum to fill the vacant spot. Sometimes they get their wish (Adia Barnes), and sometimes not (Marcel Yates). But with this particular job opening, an alum may be the best candidate out there anyway.

Mark Harlan has been in charge of the athletics department at the University of South Florida since March of 2014. He graduated with a bachelor’s in Political Science and a masters in Education from Arizona. Harlan also has some fundraising experience at Arizona, with this coming from his USF bio:

Prior to his time at UCLA, Harlan also achieved great success at another Pac-12 institution, serving as the Senior Vice President for Central Development at the University of Arizona Foundation. While there, the Foundation recorded two record years in dollars raised and number of gifts on behalf of the university.

Harlan was a major fundraiser at UCLA, being heavily involved in the renovations of both the Rose Bowl and Pauley Pavilion.

As an athletic director, he worked with Dick Tomey at San Jose State (and at USF) and also oversaw Northern Colorado’s transition into Division-I and the Big Sky.

At USF, he recently hired Charlie Strong as the school’s new football coach after Willie Taggart departed for Oregon. Taggart was hired to coach USF by Doug Woolard, not Harlan.

In the early stages, Harlan would be the front runner to replace Byrne at Arizona. It’s an alum, and a guy that has proven himself in this particular job.

At USF, Harlan is towards the end of his second year of a five-year contract that has an annual base salary of $500,000 plus performance incentives.