Chancellor O’Keefe?

Florida Today reported Saturday that NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe is a candidate to become chancellor of Louisiana State University (LSU). O’Keefe told the paper that he’s interested in the job, but didn’t mention if he has been interviewed for the position yet. The most recent meeting of the LSU chancellor search committee took place Wednesday, but most of the meeting was spent in closed executive session so the committee could “discuss the professional competence and character of persons” being considered for the position. (More details about the search process are available here, although there’s no information about when the committee will make a final decision.)

This represents an interesting turn of events in O’Keefe’s future. Throughout the year there was speculation that, if Bush won, O’Keefe would be in line for a Cabinet post or other senior level position. However, the post-election Cabinet reshuffling has now been completed without O’Keefe getting serious public consideration, let alone a nomination. (It’s true that the DHS position is in play again because of Kerik’s surprise withdrawal Friday night, but O’Keefe never appeared to be in the running for that position.) There’s also been the belief—or perhaps expectation—that O’Keefe would stay on at NASA through the shuttle’s return to flight, at which point he would be able to declare victory and move on. Given that shuttle RTF is currently no earlier than mid-May, is LSU willing to wait that long?

[Update 12/11 12 pm: SpaceRef is reporting that O’Keefe may announce his departure from NASA within the next week. The report, which mentions no sources, claims that O’Keefe will step down “to attend to his family”. Stay tuned…]

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