Just days after leading Florida Gators gymnastics to its third straight NCAA Championship, head coach Rhonda Faehn has decided to leave the program to become senior vice president of USA Gymnastics.
Faehn, who took over Florida gymnastics in 2003, has brought the Gators to 10 NCAA Super Six finals in 13 seasons (2004, 2006-10, 2012-15). UF under Faehn was on the precipice of a NCAA national title for nearly a decade before winning its first in 2013 – and two more in the years that followed.
“It was incredibly hard,” Faehn said in a school release. “I absolutely love Florida and what the University of Florida stands for. At the same time, I really feel there is another plan for me. I’m still going to be doing what I love and hopefully making an impact on the lives of a lot of athletes who will be representing our country.”
She also said: “The University of Florida has provided an opportunity of a lifetime for me, my family and our student-athletes and I am so grateful. I couldn’t have asked for a more rewarding and supportive atmosphere to do what I love.
“This amazing opportunity with USA Gymnastics provides a new and different way for me to impact young lives. I will always love the University of Florida and will treasure my time here. But my passion and excitement for Elite gymnastics is pulling me a different direction and the timing is right for me and my family. I want to have a positive influence on the athletes and coaches that will represent our country at the highest level.”
Faehn, coached as a youngster by Béla Károlyi, was a member of the U.S. National Team from 1985-88 but never competed in the Olympics despite being named an alternate in 1988. After her national career, she joined UCLA as a gymnast from 1990-92. She spent three seasons as a student assistant with the Bruins before beginning her coaching career as an assistant with Maryland (1997-98) and Nebraska (1999-2002). That is when Gators athletic director Jeremy Foley brought her to Gainesville.
“I have such mixed emotions right now. Of course, I’m happy for this wonderful opportunity for Rhonda. She will continue to make a difference in young athlete’s lives with USA Gymnastics, just like she’s done at Florida,” Foley said. “But also there is sadness. Rhonda came in here 13 years ago, sharing our vision that Florida could be a national contender. She went to work and made that vision a reality. And in the last three years, she taken this program from nationally prominent to national champion. She’s done an absolutely spectacular job.
“Rhonda, her staff and her student-athletes have represented this program and this University with such spirit, class and integrity. We cannot thank her enough for all she has given the University of Florida. We wish nothing but the best for her and her wonderful family as they begin this outstanding opportunity.”
In addition to her substantial national success, Faehn led Florida to four SEC Championships (2007, 2010, 2012-13) and earned six SEC Coach of the Year honors (2006-07, 2010-13) in 13 seasons … all in the toughest conference in the country.
Beloved by her athletes and fans alike, Faehn was the greatest gymnastics coach in Gators history and will leave the program at an all-time high. Joining her out the door is senior all-around Kytra Hunter, one of the best gymnasts in program history.
In her new role with USA Gymnastics, which begins on May 11, Faehn will supervise the national team alongside coordinator Márta Károlyi, the wife of Faehn’s former coach. The opportunity will position her to potentially lead USA Gymnastics after Károlyi’s retirement, which would give her the top job on the national stage.
“This is an incredible honor and privilege for me,” said Faehn in a USA Gymnastics press release. “The chance to contribute to the incredible success being achieved at USA Gymnastics is a once in lifetime opportunity and I look forward to working with the athletes, coaches, and entire gymnastics community to keep things moving in the right direction.”