TAMPA – Calling it a joint decision, University of South Florida athletic director Mark Harlan said Monday that baseball coach Lelo Prado, who has failed to produce an NCAA Regional bid during his eight-year tenure, will be reassigned to an administrative position when the Bulls’ season has finished.
USF (26-29) opens against Rutgers (29-23) in the American Athletic Conference tournament, which begins Wednesday in Clearwater and carries an automatic NCAA Regional bid for the champion.
Prado’s new role will be associate director of athletics for administration and external services. He will serve as a sport administrator, while developing community outreach and marketing initiatives, aiding in fundraising efforts, while working day-to-day with Harlan and deputy athletics director Barry Clements.
Harlan said he, Clements and assistant athletic director Scott Glaser will handle the search for USF’s new baseball coach.
“There will be a tremendous amount of people extremely interested in this job,’’ Harlan said.
Prado, who was hired in 2006 by former athletic director Doug Woolard, is completing the final year of his contract, which was extended in 2011. Prado, who makes $132,179 per year, is 250-212 at USF. He reached the postseason once during an 11-year tenure at Louisville and twice won the NCAA Division II national championship at the University of Tampa.
Harlan, who was hired in March, said he began envisioning an administrative role for Prado upon their first meeting.
“I quickly realized his grasp of this community and this university was really striking,’’ Harlan said. “This could be someone to work with me and help rebuild this (athletic program). …We were in complete agreement in this role.’’
Prado, who had fundraising roles at Louisville at UT, said he expected to eventually shift into an administrative position. Conversations with Harlan expedited that process.
“It’s time to do this,’’ Prado said. “I can’t wait to start coming to work (wearing) a pair of pants and a tie. It’s time for me to move to the next phase of my life. I want to do everything I can to help make USF great.’’
Meanwhile, after the completion of USF’s season, the baseball program will be managed by assistants Chris Heintz and Lance Carter until the new coach is hired.
Prado, who is 848-637-2 overall as a head coach, was careful not to look into the future. The Bulls, who have 17 defeats this season by two runs or fewer, are hopeful of making a run in the AAC tournament. Prado said his players reacted positively to Monday’s news, then “had a great practice.’’
The Bulls, who just finished their fourth season in the baseball facility that Prado helped to conceive and build, lose just four players from this year’s team.
“I wish we could’ve gotten to a regional (in previous seasons),’’ said Prado, a native of Cuba who grew up in Tampa. “Sometimes, it just doesn’t happen.
“We’ve known for about two weeks that this (winning the AAC tournament) would be our route. It’s going to be a dogfight, but hopefully we can put it all together and win the thing.’’