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Woolard to Step Down as USF Athletic Director in 2015

USF Athletic Director Doug Woolard announced on Thursday that he'll retire in January 2015.
USF Athletic Director Doug Woolard announced on Thursday that he'll retire in January 2015.
USF Athletic Director Doug Woolard announced on Thursday that he'll retire in January 2015.
Credit USF
USF Athletic Director Doug Woolard announced on Thursday that he'll retire in January 2015.

For the second time this week, a major figure at the University of South Florida announced his intent to retire in 2015.

Athletic Director Doug Woolard said on Thursday that he'll retire when his contract ends in June of next year. USF Sarasota-Manatee Regional Chancellor Arthur Guilford announced on Tuesday that he'll step down in January 2015.

But while the official statement from USF was filled with glowing words for Woolard, ESPN's Brett McMurphy cited unnamed sources in saying Woolard was actually being replaced because of "wide-ranging dissatisfaction" with the USF football and men's basketball programs.

However, others disagreed, saying Woolard wasn't forced out.

"I don't get that impression at all," USF supporter Frank Morsani told the Tampa Bay Times.  "I don't think that's the case. That's my personal opinion."

"I talked to him today; it's just been a hard slog and he's tired," Morsani added.

According to USF, Woolard will fulfill his current contract and "complete several strategically important development projects" and "assist in a succession plan and in the transition of a new director of athletics." A national search for that replacement will begin immediately. It's possible that if a replacement is found, Woolard might step down as AD sooner than June 2015.

Woolard replaced former AD, Buccaneers Hall of Famer Lee Roy Selmon, in 2004. Originally, Jon Oliver was offered the job, but had to withdraw after past legal problems were discovered. Woolard was then hired. He received a three-year contract extension worth more than $700,000 a year in 2012.

The USF Sun Dome underwent a $35 million renovation breofre reopening in 2012.
Credit USF Sun Dome
The USF Sun Dome underwent a $35 million renovation breofre reopening in 2012.

During his tenure, USF spent nearly $70 million on new or renovated athletic facilities, with over half of that going to renovate the USF Sun Dome. In addition, new football and basketball practice facilities, were built, as were new soccer, baseball, and softball stadiums and a wellness and nutrition dining center.

But while the athletic budget more than doubled to $44 million under Woolard, the results, particularly in football and men's basketball, haven't exactly matched that.

Under Woolard, USF fired the coach who helped build the Bulls football program, Jim Leavitt, in 2010 for allegedly striking a player. Woolard hired Skip Holtz as Leavitt's replacement, gave him a contract extension in 2011 despite a 5-7 season, and then fired him a year later. Holtz posted a 16-21 record in three seasons with USF. Woolard then hired Willie Taggart, who went 2-10 in his debut this past season.

Woolard also hired men's basketball coach Stan Heath, who has posted a 95-117 record in seven seasons. During the 2009-10 season, the Bulls won 20 games and made the NIT, their first postseason tournament appearance since 2002. Two seasons later, they won 22 games and made into the NCAA tournament for the first time in 20 years. They beat California and Temple in making it to the third round, the first two NCAA tournament wins in the program's history.

The women's basketball team won the 2009 NIT championship, as well as the first NCAA tournament game in program history in 2013.

In addition, men's golf won the 2013 Big East Conference championship, men's soccer won four conference titles (either regular season or post-season conference tournaments) and women's soccer made their first NCAA tournament in 2010.

USF President Judy Genshaft's statement on Doug Woolard's retirement: 

“Doug has led USF Athletics with integrity and focus, as well as a deep commitment to our students, coaches and the entire USF community. He was instrumental in transforming our athletic district facilities and I want to thank Doug for his achievements in leading our program over these years. We’re very appreciative of his efforts on campus and his participation in the larger Tampa Bay community. We look forward to a bright future ahead.”

Doug Woolard's statement:

“I have been truly blessed to enjoy a 40-year career in education and athletics. After Cherrie and I spent some great quality time with our family over the holidays, I have been visiting with the President for the last few weeks about initiating this plan. I appreciate the special partnership I’ve enjoyed with President Genshaft and I extend my heartfelt gratitude to all of the outstanding coaches, members of our administrative staff, generous donors, and most importantly, our wonderful student athletes. Cherrie and I will treasure our time at USF; we are Bulls for life!”

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Health News Florida is now part of WUSF Public Media in Tampa, Florida.
Mark Schreiner is the assistant news director and intern coordinator for WUSF News.
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