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New Mexico's Craig Neal emerges as legitimate target at South Florida

New Mexico's Craig Neal has emerged as a legitimate target of South Florida's ongoing coaching search, multiple sources told CBSSports.com on Thursday.

No offer has been extended, the sources said.

But it's not hard to connect the dots.

USF's new athletic director, Mark Harlan, is a former UCLA associate AD who spent the past 11 months working with first-year UCLA coach Steve Alford, who spent the previous nine years working with Neal at Iowa and New Mexico. When Alford got the UCLA job last March, Neal was promoted to replace his longtime friend and boss, and sources told CBSSports.com that Harlan has a high opinion of Neal because Alford has a high opinion of Neal.

Would Neal actually jump from New Mexico to USF?

That remains unclear.

But it should be noted that Neal only makes $750,000 and has not been offered a new contract despite winning 27 games and the Mountain West Conference tournament title this season, meaning USF could easily offer Neal more money than he's currently earning. UNM athletic director Paul Krebs told Geoff Grammer of the Albuquerque Journal earlier this month that he has no intention of reworking Neal's contract.

"He's in the first year of a five-year contract," Krebs said. "We felt that contract was very fair when it was signed, and we look forward to Craig being here for many more years."

USF is looking for a coach after reaching a deal with Manhattan's Steve Masiello earlier this week. That deal fell apart after a background check revealed that Masiello is not a college graduate even though his resume stated that he graduated from Kentucky in 2000.

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