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Utah hires their new Athletic Director

The same day that they had a fairwell for Dr. Chris Hill as the Utah AD of 31 years went off into retirement, the Utah Athletic Department named HIll’s successor, Mark Harlan. Harlan comes from the University of South Florida, where the school just signed him to an extension back in April. He had a nice track record in the American Athletic conference, which no doubt helped to catch the eye of Utah administrators.

From the official release, here’s a bit more on his time at USF:

During Harlan’s tenure at USF, the Bulls won 12 American Athletic Conference championships and nine different sports programs ranked in the Top 25 during the 2017-2018 academic year. The Bulls football program was one of 13 programs in the nation to win 20 or more games the past two seasons and was ranked in the Top 25 for a program-record 19 straight weeks. The department had an 82 percent Graduation Success Rate (GSR) in 2017 and 12 USF teams achieved a GPA of 3.0 or above with four programs earning perfect Academic Progress Report (APR) scores. USF Athletics entered into record-setting agreements for its multimedia rights and apparel, generating nearly $53 million in revenue during the term of the agreements. In 2017, athletics increased donations by 300 percent over 2016, more than doubling the previous best year in USF Athletics giving history.

“I am humbled to follow in the footsteps of Chris Hill and to build on the strong foundation already in place,” said Harlan. “President Watkins has a clear vision for the University of Utah and recognizes that athletics can play a role in the university’s upward trajectory. I am grateful to her for the tremendous opportunity and her confidence in me and I cannot wait to get started.”

The thing that I really like about Harlan is the fact that he is familar with the west coast.... very familiar actually. We worked at UCLA prior to USF, as well as Arizona, San Jose State and Northern Colorado. Basically, he has some familiarity with the footprint of the Pac-12 South. Here’s a bit more for the release on his experiences before USF:

Prior to taking over at the University of South Florida in 2014, Harlan served in a variety of positions on campuses across the country, including tenures as the senior associate athletic director for external relations at the University of California Los Angeles; senior vice president for central development at the University of Arizona; senior associate athletic director at San Jose State University; and associate athletic director at the University of Northern Colorado. Harlan earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Arizona.

While it is a bit of a shocker that the school went with an external hire, they made one that is very familiar with the Pac-12, and athletics in the west. It’s also great to see him have some good experience with fundraising. Because when you’re going against UCLA, USC and Oregon it’s an uphill battle for funds in this league.

The next thing we will see from the department will be the unveiling of the plans for the Rice-Eccles Stadium expansion/renovation plans, and I’m guessing Harlan will have some insight into that as well, but Chris Hill no doubt has done much of hte heavy lifting.

Harlan has some really big shoes to fill, because Hill made some of the biggest hires and decisions you could ever make as an AD, which makes sense considering he was here for 31 years, but that just shows he was good at his job. It will be fun to see what kind of imprint Harlan makes on the school and this community.