Burleigh Among Greatest UF Coaches Ever

Florida soccer coach Becky Burleigh might want to consult with Mary Wise about how one goes about sizing an 11th SEC Championship ring. Wise is the only other UF coach to earn a title ring for each finger and then keep adding to the total. Burleigh's Gator squad claimed the SEC Championship Friday night with a 1-0 win over South Carolina.

It was the Gators fifth straight SEC title and makes it clear any list of the best coaches in UF history has to include the perpetually youthful soccer mentor.

When Florida hired Burleigh away from Berry College to establish a soccer program in Gainesville it was taking a chance. Certainly Burleigh had enjoyed remarkable success at Berry, winning a pair of NAIA National Championships in 5 years but she was just 26 years year old and the SEC isn't exactly NAIA level competition.

No matter. Burleigh quickly had Florida on the fast track to success, posting 14 wins in her first season, winning the SEC in the next two seasons and stunning the soccer world with an NCAA Championship win over soccer super power North Carolina in 1998.

Burleigh and the Gators return to the "College Cup" --- soccer's version of the Final Four in 2001, but has not enjoyed a great deal of NCAA success since, but the consistent excellence overall and in SEC play can't be overlooked. To win 11 SEC Titles in 16 years is a remarkable accomplishment. To do it while establishing a program at a school that had never had soccer is truly amazing.

Burleigh's team will likely take a No. 8 or higher ranking into the NCAA Tournament with hopes of making a deep run into the event this year. The Gators are now 15-2-2 on the year and overall Burleigh's record now stands at a most impressive 279-72-25 (.775) at UF and 361-95-31 (.773) overall.

Only a handful of Gator coaches have been able to bring home an NCAA Championship. Only a few have been able to make winning SEC Championships and almost annual event. Becky Burleigh is one of two current Gator Coaches – Roland Thornqvist is the other – to make each of those lists. That clearly stamps Becky Burleigh as one of the best coaches in UF history.

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