University of Florida

After setting the bar, UF athletics director Jeremy Foley retires

Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley speaks during a news conference Friday, Jan. 4, 2002, in Gainesville, Fla., about the resignation of coach Steve Spurrier. Spurrier, who went 122-27-1 with Florida, resigned to pursue a job in the NFL. He led a program that had never won a Southeastern Conference title to six of them. He also led the Gators to their first and only national championship in 1996.
Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley speaks during a news conference Friday, Jan. 4, 2002, in Gainesville, Fla., about the resignation of coach Steve Spurrier. Spurrier, who went 122-27-1 with Florida, resigned to pursue a job in the NFL. He led a program that had never won a Southeastern Conference title to six of them. He also led the Gators to their first and only national championship in 1996. AP

Over the past quarter of a century, University of Florida athletics director Jeremy Foley turned the school’s program into a national powerhouse.

But after 25 years, Foley is moving on. UF announced Monday that Foley, 63, is retiring.

He will step down from the position on Oct. 1.

Foley took over as UF’s athletics director in March 1992 at the age of 39. He began his career in the athletics department about 15 years earlier, starting as an intern in the ticket office in August 1976.

Under Foley’s direction, UF won 27 national titles in 13 sports. Among them are the school’s first three in football (1996, 2006, 2008) and back-to-back titles in men’s basketball (2006 and 2007). The school also won consecutive national championships in women’s tennis (2011 and 2012), softball (2014 and 2015), women’s gymnastics (2013-2015) and men’s track and field (indoor: 2010-2012; outdoor: 2012-2013; 2016). At least one UF team has won a national title for seven consecutive years.

“I think we set the bar at a certain place, and I think Florida fans like that and the people who work here like that,” Foley said in a statement on the school’s website. “The bars are tough around here in terms of success and integrity. But I think those bars are good and have served the University of Florida well.”

Foley’s successor will inherit a program that’s in pretty good shape.

Football coach Jim McElwain and basketball coach Mike White, both of whom just completed their first season at UF, are under long-term contracts.

The $65 million renovation of the O’Connell Center is in full force.

And the overall athletic program is finding success, with 13 of 19 programs finishing or on pace to finish in the top 10 nationally this season.

UF’s student-athletes are also excelling in the classroom, with the school holding an average NCAA Graduation Success Rate of 85.2 percent since the gauge was introduced 11 years ago.

“Success to Jeremy is a student-athlete who graduates and wins championships in the right way,” UF president Kent Fuchs said in a statement. “That is the culture he created here.”

When Foley was in attendance at athletic events, he made an effort to engage with fans.

During basketball season, he’d interact with the student section behind his seat on press row, starting brief conversations during timeouts, shaking hands with the students and usually cheering and shouting just as loud as the 9,000-plus fans who regularly filled the O’Connell Center.

Since the announcement of his retirement, current and former UF coaches and players have flooded social media with posts reminiscing on memories from the past 25 years and explaining what Foley has meant to the athletic program.

“The time comes,” Foley said. “What’s important to me is that Florida is OK.”

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