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Rumors rush ahead of USF choice

A candidate is seen in Tallahassee. What does it mean? Who's talking to whom? Why? All will be revealed soon.

By BARRY KLEIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 9, 2000


TAMPA -- One thing is clear: University system Chancellor Adam Herbert intends Friday to recommend one of three finalists for the presidency of the University of South Florida.

But even as a spokesman said Wednesday that Herbert had yet to make his choice, one of those candidates was in Tallahassee meeting with university system officials.

Judy Genshaft, the provost at the University at Albany, State University of New York, could have flown in to discuss contract terms. But she also could have been there just to answer more questions.

Herbert said earlier in the week he was still working to determine which candidate would be the best fit for USF.

Keith Goldschmidt, Herbert's spokesman, said there would be no comment on Genshaft.

"All I can say is the chancellor will make a recommendation on Friday," he said. Earlier in the day, before he was asked about Genshaft's visit, Goldschmidt said Herbert was closing in on a "favored candidate."

Dennis Ross, who is chairing the Board of Regents search committee helping to select USF's next leader, said Wednesday he did not think Herbert had made a final decision.

He declined to comment on Genshaft, who is expected back in Albany this morning.

The other finalists for USF's top job are Antoine Garibaldi, the provost at Howard University, and Thomas George, the chancellor at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

Herbert will announce his recommendation at 10 a.m. Friday in the Marshall Center ballroom on the Tampa campus. The regents then will vote via conference call.

The winner is not expected to be there, one more sign of the apparent difficulty officials are having in settling on a favored candidate.

In recent weeks, all of the finalists have had their credentials thoroughly investigated by Herbert and his aides, who visited their campuses and talked to more than 300 people about the candidates' strengths and weaknesses.

Meanwhile, the rumor mill at USF has been churning furiously.

Many around campus have speculated that Herbert might re-open the search, a scenario fueled by the misgivings some community leaders have expressed about the depth and quality of the candidate pool.

At one point in the search process, the chancellor did talk to interim USF President Richard Peck about whether he would be willing to stay on board.

Peck is a former president of the University of New Mexico, which he helped build into a nationally recognized research institution.

Goldschmidt characterized the inquiry as a routine discussion. "The chancellor would have such a conversation with any interim president he hired," he said.

Ross said the conversation took place relatively early in the search process.

"It was just a prudent move," he said. "Knowing that a person of Dick Peck's capability and experience was available was very comforting."

Peck is out of town this week and could not be reached for comment. Gus Stavros, a member of the search advisory group and a major donor to the university, said he talked to Peck within the past two weeks about whether he would be interested in staying on.

Stavros said the conversation had nothing to do with the quality of the finalists.

"I just think Dr. Peck would be a fine president," he said. "He told me he would be willing to stay for three years, but that the chancellor might want someone for longer."

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