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It has been three months since Jeremy Foley, the Florida Gators‘ well-respected and incredibly accomplished athletic director of the last 25 years, announced his retirement effective Oct 1.
By announcing his retirement in advance, Foley provided Florida — where he has worked for the last 40 years in various roles — with nearly four months to hire his replacement. Unfortunately for the Gators, they have been unable to lock in that replacement with three weeks to go until Foley’s planned departure date.
There has been some information floating around about Florida’s hiring process here but little of it has been substantiated. In fact, OnlyGators.com has heard numerous tidbits over the last few months, but we were unable to confirm any of them due to how close to the vest UF has been keeping the entire process.
USA Today‘s Dan Wolken on Friday was able to break it down, however, with a detailed report that confirms some of what we heard previously but offers far greater insight.
According to “multiple people with knowledge of the process” who spoke with Wolken and USA Today, the primary issue that has come up with “some higher-profile” potential candidates has been Foley remaining with the program in an emeritus role. There is concern about him looming over Florida athletics as one of the most successful athletic directors of all-time.
This may have been what spooked North Carolina AD Bubba Cunningham, who according to Wolken “pulled his name from consideration the night before he was supposed to arrive in Gainesville to finalize the deal … to the bewilderment of several colleagues in the industry.”
It should be no surprise that a sitting AD told Wolken that the Gators’ job is indeed the “best … in the country,” which is why it comes as such a shock that Florida’s had such a tough time filling the position to this point.
Many other Power Five programs have replaced their athletic directors in the same span, with those it acquired from other institutions similarly being replaced already. Granted, none of those positions was as high-profile as the one available at Florida.
Not reported by Wolken but the one thing confirmed to OnlyGators.com previously is that UF has hinted to candidates that it would like to retain some or all of its current staff. That could be an issue for some candidates who might feel like they are stepping into a situation as a lone outsider with everyone else already on the same page.
Wolken also reported that Arizona AD Greg Byrne was at one point under consideration for the job, but there’s no reason given as to why those conversations stopped. Byrne is considered by many to be the hottest up-and-coming athletic director in the industry.
There is certainly no scenario in which Foley leaves Florida high and dry. As Wolken notes, chances are he will remain in place with the Gators until a new athletic director is hired and an appropriate transition period can occur. “Even if the school announced a hire in the next few days, it would be difficult to have someone in place by the original target date,” he wrote.
Florida is not using a search firm for this hiring process and is instead keeping the entire thing in-house, just as Foley did when hiring and replacing some of UF’s most notable coaches over the last few years. The difference, of course, is that Foley is not part of the this process (though he is supposedly lending an ear when needed).
In a statement following Foley’s departure, the Gators’ senior associate athletic directors under Foley pulled their name from consideration for the job. Florida is looking to hire a sitting Power Five athletic director for its prestigious role.