Here’s why the Florida Gators still haven’t hired a new athletic director

By Adam Silverstein
September 9, 2016
Here’s why the Florida Gators still haven’t hired a new athletic director
Football

Image Credit: GatorVision

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.

6 Comments

  1. SL says:

    Dumb question and may have been answered previously, but why wouldn’t they hire internally / someone that has already been groomed by Foley. If they insist on keeping the staff together which as you pointed out maybe a deal broker for some new AD, this would also keep the momentum and you would assume a current person on the staff would not be intimidated by having Foley still with some sort of role.
    Why wouldn’t anyone currently not want to step up to this role?

    • Not a stupid question. A very legitimate one. There are extenuating circumstances. I hate to be that plain with the answer, but like I mentioned in the story, I’ve been unable to confirm a lot of things I’ve heard on this and therefore don’t want to say anything that might be false. As to why Florida might not want one of them to step up, you could make the argument that for such a top-tier job Florida should have its pick of candidates. It says a lot that Greg Byrne considered the job, though the fact that he wasn’t offered or didn’t take it is strange.

      • Glenn says:

        Adamus,Hark! It’s the bones of yesteryear, their rattle subtle yet audible, pow-wow fires burn late into the night.
        Yea, we await the return of greatness to the helm. The message on face says pomp, circumstance, high holy, yet rings hollow in substance.
        This too shall pass.

  2. Alex says:

    There is an underlying issue with the program that is the cause of this. Even the initial announcement was strange.

  3. Glenn says:

    Retiring Foley is akin to easing out that FBI guy that just would not go away.
    Way more under-current here than being shared with the public.
    I could get raw here, but defer to watching how this DRAMA unfolds.

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