SALT LAKE CITY — On the day Chris Hill left his post of 31 years as the University of Utah director of athletics, the university has hired his replacement.
Mark Harlan, who is currently serving as the director of athletics at the University of South Florida, was hired to fill the void after Hill retired, University of Utah President Ruth V. Watkins announced Friday. Harlan will start his tenure at Utah on July 1.
“Mark has a breadth of experience in athletics and in fundraising, an open and collaborative leadership style and a track record of success that will enable him to lead our athletics department to greater heights,” Watkins said in a prepared statement. “On behalf of the university community, I want to welcome Mark and his family to the U.”
Harlan has served as the director of athletics at USF since 2014. He signed a three-year contract extension with the university in April, where he was expected to earn $525,000 annually through the 2020-21 school year, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Details of his contract at Utah are not immediately known.
“I am humbled to follow in the footsteps of Chris Hill and to build on the strong foundation already in place,” Harlan said in a prepared statement. “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,” he continued.
Watkins, who established a 14-person committee in April, said Harlan was included in “an extensive national search” for the position and that he “emerged as our clear top choice.” Harlan has no direct ties to the university but is familiar with the landscape of the Pac-12 and the west.
The advisory committee established by Watkins was comprised of various education leaders at the university, administrators, community leaders, coaches and former athletes. Watkins said the committee felt that Harlan’s “experience, character and commitment” made him “an excellent fit” for the university.
“Mark has a great reputation in our conference from his time at Arizona and UCLA,” Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement, ”and I know he will build upon the great foundation that Chris Hill has established over the last 31 years at Utah. I have great respect for Mark, both as a leader and as a person, and I look forward to working with him in our conference.”
In his last year at USF, Harlan had nine different sports programs that were ranked in the Top 25 during the 2017-18 school year. Watkins said Harlan increased donations at USF in 2017 by 300 percent from the previous year and was integral to a $53 million multimedia rights and apparel deal for the university.
Prior to his tenure at USF, Harlan served as a senior associate athletic director at UCLA and was the senior vice president for central development at the University of Arizona. Harlan is an alum of the University of Arizona, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
Harlan also spent time at San Jose State University and at the University of Northern Colorado in their athletics departments.
Watkins said Harlan’s responsibilities will include overseeing 20 varsity sports programs at Utah, a staff of close to 200 people and an $80 million budget. She added that he will play a “key role” in the fundraising and planning efforts surrounding the probable expansion of Rice-Eccles Stadium.
When Hill announced his retirement in March, he committed himself to the task of raising $20 million of the needed $25 million for a stadium expansion in his final two months on the job. Details about the stadium expansion, however, have not been released.
Prior to the university establishing a search committee to find a replacement, associate athletics director Kyle Brennan was considered an early front-runner to take the job. Hill said in March that he even petitioned Watkins to hire him as a possible replacement. Utah football head coach Kyle Whittingham called Brennan a “superstar in the making,” adding that he would have no doubts Brennan would be successful in the role.
News of the university hiring Harlan was first reported by 1280 The Zone’s Scott Garrard on Twitter.
Hill's last day came Friday with a sendoff from university faculty as he made his way to a bus.
Thank you, Dr. Hill. pic.twitter.com/Vg3CgtLWGE— Utah Football (@Utah_Football) June 1, 2018