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Help Wanted: Run Utah's Biggest School

Help Wanted: Run Utah's Biggest School

Posted - Mar. 4, 2004 at 3:04 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Nearly six months after the University of Utah's former president announced his exit for Florida, the state is still plowing through a list candidates to replace him -- with no deadline in sight, officials say.

Regents officials say the committee has received more than 100 applications and nominations to fill the president's spot vacated after Bernie Machen left Utah to become president at the University of Florida. A. Lorris Betz, dean of the school's College of Medicine and senior vice president for health sciences, has been serving as interim president, which prevents him from being considered for the permanent position.

"They have been going through (the applications) carefully and methodically," said Dave Buhler, the Regents' associate commissioner for public affairs. "It's a slow, careful process."

James Jardine, a regent and chair of the search committee, said most of the applicants are from outside Utah.

Candidates' names won't be released until the co mmittee pares its list to a set a finalists. Members of the search committee are not allowed to talk to the press about their work, and can't even take home information on candidates, Buhler said.

"Some people are scared off if there's publicity. They could be holding a very prestigious position at another university," he said.

The university also has to fill another high-profile position -- one vacated more recently and abruptly. Head basketball coach Rick Majerus stepped down in January. The coach, who has a history of heart problems, decided sudden chest pains and the stress of coaching were a sign he needed to get healthy.

Officials have said publicly that they could have a set of presidential finalists ready by late spring or early summer. But Jardine said he preferred not to mention specific dates, because any number of things could bump the committee off its planned time schedule.

For example, there is no application deadline until a president is chosen, which means that qualified late entrants could hold up the process until their applications are evaluated.

At the University of Florida, Machen replaced a man who was tapped as a short-term interim president and wound up staying more than four years.

Either way, university officials say Betz is an able administrator, and that the school hasn't been hampered by his interim status in battles with state Legislators. University presidents are seen as crucial advocates for state funding for their schools.

"(Betz and Machen) worked very closely, so we're not seeing major changes. They have the same priorities," said university spokeswoman Coralie Alder.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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