SALT LAKE CITY — For Mark Harlan, the new athletic director at the University of Utah, the expectation is to win. His definition of such is simple. It's covered in three categories — the classroom, the community and in competition.
"Everybody, including myself, will be evaluated on the three C's going forward," Harlan said at an introductory press conference Monday at Rice-Eccles Stadium. "I told that to the staff this morning, and I want everyone to know it's as simple as that."
The 48-year-old signed a five-year contract that pays $700,000 for each of the first three years and $750,000 annually for the last two.
Harlan, who has been the director of athletics at South Florida since 2014, brings a wealth of experience to the job. Previous stints came at UCLA (senior associate athletic director for external relations), his alma mater Arizona (senior vice president for central development) San Jose State (senior associate athletic director), and Northern Colorado (associate athletic director).
"Get ready, buckle up, go Utes," Harlan said to the assembled media, administrators, coaches and boosters.
"I believe strongly that we can rise in all sports," he later added. "We're already succeeding at such a high level anyway, but we know this — look out for Utah."
When asked about his first priorities, Harlan said "listening" was on top.
"I think it's critically important that I listen to our coaches, our staff and find out what are the things that they need to continue to excel. Listen to our incredible donors and find out about their experience, why they're investing at such a level, and just go through that process throughout the community.
"I think that's really important to learn. Once you get to that point, then you start formulating your plan and go about doing all the things we need to do in winning in those three categories that I talked about," he continued. "But this first period of time is going to be listening profoundly and not doing a lot of talking."
University of Utah President Ruth V. Watkins reeled off a variety of reasons why Harlan was chosen for the position. She noted his energy, his passion and his experience.
"Really a compelling person," Watkins said. "I think the record he has as a leader is a very big part of our excitement."
Watkins added that South Florida has thrived under Harlan's leadership and that he's also very experienced in the Pac-12 in his roles at UCLA and Arizona.
"He's excited to return to the Pac-12 and we're really thrilled to have him here with us," Watkins said.
The process came together rather quickly after a national search was conducted. Watkins said the university owes it to Dr. Chris Hill, who served as athletic director for nearly 31 years, to keep the department's energy moving in a forward direction. As such, she explained, filling the post swiftly was important.
"He's a leader who listens, who builds partnerships that advance athletics and then also support the university as a whole," Watkins said in introducing Harlan. "I know that he will bring that talent for listening, inspiring, collaborating and motivating to the University of Utah as he guides us forward."
Harlan then addressed the gathering.
"Wow. It's an absolute honor to be here," he said before thanking Watkins and the search advisory committee. "It was such a professional process and I got to learn. I got to learn so much about the University of Utah and how great it is. I'm so excited to join your team in all regards."
Harlan's ensuing remarks covered a variety of topics.
ON CHRIS HILL: "He's in the Mount Rushmore of our business," said Harlan, who met with Hill on Friday. "Such a good man and he pledged to me his complete support."
Harlan added that he's excited about the chance to follow through on everything that Hill built at the U.
UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero also received praise. Harlan thanked "his mentor" for being one of the main reasons he's in his new position.
FAMILY MAN: Harlan took time to thank his wife, Carolyn, and their children Savannah and Austin, for their support.
"They're everything to me. I can't wait for the Utah family to get to know them as well," he said. "I can't thank you guys enough."
RESPECT FOR U.: An "unbelievable institution." That's how Harlan described his new employer. He told the head coaches in a meeting earlier in the day that when teams in the Pac-12 play Utah — regardless of the sport — they're in for a fight.
"So I'm so excited to be part of that going forward," said Harlan, who noted that the Pac-12 is the best league in the country.
QUICK PROCESS: Things happened rather fast for Harlan, who recently signed a new contract with South Florida. When the Utah opportunity came about, though, Harlan couldn't pass it up.
"Everything about this place is what I've dreamed about in my career," he said.
A "dream job," he acknowledged, would be a very accurate statement.
WHAT'S AHEAD: When asked if he was bringing anyone from South Florida with him to Utah, Harlan mentioned his family and their pet labradoodle.
"There's such great people here we'll take a look at everything as we go forward," he said.
Harlan dismissed any notion that current members of the Utah athletic department staff would have to re-interview for their positions.
"Absolutely not. That's not my style," said Harlan, who addressed anxiousness with the staff earlier in the day. "I'm here now. You know who I am and my style is I'm going to sit down and learn from you. You got your job here for whatever reason because you're great. This is a big-time, big-time school."
ON KYLE BRENNAN: Harlan had kind things to say about Utah's deputy athletic director.
"He's been running this place so successfully with Chris for so many years," Harlan said. "They've recruited such a great staff here."
Harlan called Brennan on Friday and asked him if he "was ready to roll" and "get after it." He said Brennan was gracious and set up a staff meeting. Although Brennan is bedridden with a bad back and missed the press conference, he said in a text message that he's looking forward to Mark's arrival and "supporting him moving forward."
Harlan noted that Brennan is "an unbelievable athletic administrator, a top-notch guy and pure class."
COACH MAC: When former Utah football coach Ron McBride was the offensive line coach at Arizona back in the day, Harlan was a team manager for the Wildcats.
"I've got some great Ronnie stories," Harlan said.
GETTING THE JOB: The offer to become Utah's next athletic director was a "deep-breath moment" for Harlan.
"I know what an incredible university this is, and to be given the opportunity to lead it was a pretty special moment," he said.
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