Florida Gators athletic director Jeremy Foley concluded his press conference on Monday by addressing how and when the program will move forward in hiring a replacement for head coach Will Muschamp. He also outlined the qualities an ideal candidate would possess, with a renewed focus on offensive success of paramount importance in the search.
“The search will begin immediately, this afternoon,” Foley began.
“There is no fixed timetable but we’ll proceed as quickly as we can. There’s a lot of work to do, a lot of research to do. We understand how important this hire is for this university. We also understand the pride of the Gator Nation. We understand the pride they have in this football program.
“Because we have fallen short the last several years, we totally understand the disappointment and their frustration. Their passion can cut both ways, and it’s their passion that makes this place special. … It’s an amazing place, so we absolutely want to make this right for them, for this football program and for this university.”
Foley noted that he is looking for a “high-integrity, high-character” individual like Muschamp. “Our mission statement around here says, ‘Championship experience with integrity.’ That is paramount to us as we move forward.”
But he also wants a coach who has proven to be “successful on the offensive side of the ball,” something Muschamp was not. Though an offensively-focused coach is not a prerequisite for this job, sustained success at a coach’s program is obviously of great importance.
“I think that’s obviously what the Gator Nation wants,” he said, “and we see that and that’s certainly what we’re going to try and provide for them. … You listen to fans. … We think that’s important. We’ll see what the [coaching] pool looks like, but we do think that’s important.”
He added later: “We need to have a coach that has a track record of success on the offensive side of the ball.”
There are other qualities important to Foley as well. He wants a coach who values all of Florida’s 21 sports, not just football, and possesses a high character both on and off the field.
“You don’t have to go to their games, but we got some really good sport programs around here, we got some really good coaches around here and you better value them, you better be part of them,” he said. “The beauty of what we do around here is we have a lot of coaches that interact together and work together and pick each other’s brains. you can’t come in here and think football is more important than the other 20 sports; that mindset doesn’t work here.
“Understanding the passion for Gator Nation, understanding the academic reputation of this institution, understanding that inside the building, that’s important. What does that mean? Respecting people and treating people right. Those things are important to us. Personal and individual philosophy? I think they translate into success. I think that’s eon reason why we’ve been successful round here, because we got a lot of people who are that way.”
Foley also noted that the University of Florida is “not a place for everybody, not everyone fits in here,” saying that a perfect “fit” between the coach and the program will be a big part of the search.
To this point, the Gators have not “talked to one head coach” and do not plan to “disrupt other people’s seasons,” according to Foley, meaning Florida will likely begin to reach out to interested parties after conference championship games are held in the first week of December.
“As we’ve always done around here, but again I want to make sure this is understood by everyone, we’ll handle this the right way. We don’t cut back-room deals here. We don’t have agents talking to other agents. that’s not how we do things here, no matter what is written or what is said,” Foley explained.
“It will be handled above-board, and I want that to be understood as well. I understand the intense interest in this search, understand that it will generate a lot of rumors, a lot of conversation. The intense interest in the search is what makes this place special. People care.”
Foley did not back away from questions about his role in hiring Muschamp and the current state of the football program either, noting that he is accepting of any blame that fans want to throw his way.
“We know how important this is to the Gator Nation. It’s important to the entire university. I’ve been here a long, long time. I know what’s important. I know how these fans support us. Pressure? That’s part of the gig. We got a very talented staff to assist. We’ll find somebody who wants to be here. Fans blaming me because we’re not successful? That’s part of it, too. I don’t hold any grudges about that. I understand that,” he said.
“We’re in the business to be successful. We’re in the business to represent the University of Florida the right way, we’re in the business to graduate people, we’re in the business to develop young men and women. But we’re also in the sports business. The University of Florida, we have expectations to win, same as our fans do. It’s the disappointment, the frustration [that the fans are expressing]. If someone blames me, that’s part of it. That’s part of it because we’re not successful as everybody wants us to be or as we want to be. I understand that. But I also understand the need for us to get this right and that’s why we’re here today, unfortunately.”
The Gators would like to make their hire in December, before Christmas, which would give the chosen coach enough time to recruit and prepare for National Signing Day in the first week of February. Florida’s 2015 recruiting class is currently ranked No. 72 nationally, according to Rivals.
“Anytime there is a coaching change, it’s difficult in recruiting, but signing day is not until February. You can’t rush this. At the end of the day, it’s still the University of Florida. We got a lot to offer up here. I think we have an opportunity here when a new coach will get in here,” Foley said.
“Recruiting is about relationships, that’s the way it is. A new coach coming in here will obviously be a little bit behind the eight ball, but you’re not going to rush it because of recruiting. Recruiting is important, but we’ll get a coach in here in plenty of time to go visit and convince some folks that this is a good place to be, because it is a good place to be, and we got a lot to offer. That has not changed.”
Foley will not make the hire on his own. He has not decided whether to employ a search firm, but he will mostly rely on his internal staff before coming to a decision with school president Bernie Machen. W. Kent Fuchs, UF’s president beginning in 2015, will also have input on the matter.