Opening Statement: "Good afternoon, and thank you all for coming today. We are here today to announce that the University of Florida has made a decision, a difficult decision, to terminate the contract of Ron Zook, effective at the end of the year. Coach Zook has agreed to coach the remaining four games. I certainly want to thank Ron for the extraordinary efforts he has put in the last three years to make this program the best it can be. We all know his work ethic is second to none. I see it every single day. I have seen the sacrifices he has made personally to get this program to move in the direction he wishes it to go and I want to thank him for that and his assistant coaches as well. They are some hard-working guys and I am very proud of their work ethic and they are good Gators. That's what makes a decision such as this so difficult. In the final analysis as you evaluate our football program, and take a look at the last three years, it was apparent to me that something was not working here. I know that is kind of nebulous, but it's the truth. I cannot put my finger on it exactly but it certainly has not appeared to be working as we all had envisioned. Certainly it wasn't working as I had envisioned it three years ago when I hired Ron Zook ,and I accept full responsibility for making that decision that has not panned out as we have all envisioned it. But now we turn our attention to the future. Again, I want to honestly offer a great deal of thanks to Coach Zook for all he did for the University of Florida."
On the decision with respect to Coach Steve Spurrier's availability: "Coach Spurrier and his situation has no bearing on this decision at all. It was an honest evaluation of our football program that Dr. Machen and I have done over the last several weeks. We will discuss this job with a number of coaches, what the criteria is that we are going to hire a head coach and obviously if Coach Spurrier is interested, we will sit down with him. We obviously will sit down with other coaches. We will not talk to any coaches who are currently coaching teams until the regular season is over because those folks are trying to win championships and finish seasons and doing all the things they're trying to do to coach their teams. This process will be drawn out a little longer, but Coach Spurrier's situation had no impact on this decision." On whether Coach Ron Zook would coach Florida in a bowl game: "First of all, we're not qualified for a bowl game yet, so obviously there's some work to do there and at some point in time Coach Zook and I will discuss that, but we have not discussed that at all."
On why Coach Ron Zook will continue to coach through the remainder of the season: "I thought that Coach Zook deserved to be the coach. He's been here for three years. This is his football team and he's worked extraordinarily hard and to sit there and say, ‘Coach Zook, you can't finish the season' – that would be inappropriate and inappropriate for the kids too. They obviously have a great deal of respect for Coach Zook and his staff and that would not be in the best interest of the football program and flat out would not have been in our opinion."
On why the announcement was made at this time: "I think the issue is a matter of doing the right thing. After Dr. Machen and I evaluated this program – we talked Saturday night and spent some time together yesterday talking – to know where you'll end up on Nov. 21 and to sit on that for a month and be less than honest with people – in our opinion, that would be inappropriate. It's the honorable thing to do in our opinion and that's why we did it."
On whether there will be changes in the search process: "The search process will be developed. Dr. Machen gave me the responsibility to develop the candidates. Dr. Machen will be heavily engaged in the final decision. We'll call upon people that we need to call upon and we'll make a decision that hopefully takes this program where we want it to be – to bring a coach in here that takes advantage of the foundation that Coach Zook has built with his tremendous recruiting and go exactly where he wanted to go and where all of us want to go."
On when the decision came about: "Certainly, Saturday's loss was a contributor to those disappointments I just alluded to. In the conversations that Dr. Machen and I had, Saturday's loss was a factor, but it was another one of the disappointments I alluded to."
On meeting with the players: "Obviously, there's some disappointment. They feel very strongly about Coach Zook and his staff and that's to be expected. They're also Gators and they're looking forward to playing this weekend."
On an ideal time to hire a new coach: "What you want to do is give it some time to make sure you hire the right person to get this program to where we all want it to be. To put a timetable on it would be inappropriate. Certainly, any time you make a coaching decision, the sooner the better, but in this situation we're in right now, we want the opportunity to talk to people to make sure we make the right decision."
On how difficult the decision was: "Anytime, whether it's a personal friend or not, when you make decisions that impact people's lives – that's difficult. From the athletic director's point of view, it's a decision that we felt had to be made in the best interests of the program. On a personal level, to make a decision that impacts a personal friend is very, very difficult. But it's certainly not as difficult for me as it is for Coach Zook. He's put his heart and soul into this program. It's also not as difficult for me as it is for the assistant coaches, who obviously have some uncertainly in their lives. It's difficult on my part, but it pales in comparison to what those people are going through."
On telling Coach Zook: "Ron and I met with Dr. Machen this morning and told him this was the direction we felt we needed to go. Coach Zook is a pro. Is he happy? Of course not, he's a competitor. But he's a pro and he's handled it in a first class way as we expected he would."
Ron Zook statement:
I want to take the time to thank a number of people who have done all they could to help us move forward in our time here at Florida.
This has been a wonderful experience for my family the past three years. It hasn't always turned out the way we wanted it to week to week, but I can assure you we've worked very hard at this and been very fortunate to have had so many good people working to help us.
I want to thank the administration here at Florida, namely Jeremy, who gave me this opportunity to coach at Florida. For that, I will be forever grateful. I've always believed this is a special, special place. I will continue to feel that way for the long haul.
I want to thank the Florida people. The professors, the students, the alumni and the fans in general who make this place so special. So many people took the time to offer support and encouragement during both good and difficult times. To them, I am greatly appreciative.
I want to thank our coaches who have worked so hard. Despite the obstacles, they never batted an eye, never flinched, no matter what was required.
I want to thank the coaches' families as well for their patience. Coaches work long hours and put a lot into the job. It takes great support at home.
I want to thank all of our players, particularly these seniors. We've been together for a long time and we've had their utmost respect and support. I want them to know they have our utmost respect and support as well.
The same goes for the 65 returning players. They will have great careers here. I can't begin to tell you how much I appreciate and respect these players. They work so hard and do whatever they're asked. They are all winners.
I want to thank the members of the media. I know we haven't always seen eye to eye, but you are a fair, hard-working group. Since I've been here, particularly the last year or so, I've gotten to know some of you better. I appreciate how you have handled many issues.
Finally, I want to thank my wonderful family. My wife Denise, my daughters Jacqueline and Casey who have supported me through it all for so many years. Without them, I am nothing.
I take pride in the fact that we leave this program in very good shape, with a lot of good young talent and good people. The future of Gator football is very bright.
Right now, the most important thing for me is to spend time getting my team ready to play a very good Georgia team. The players deserve that. The fans deserve that.
For that reason, I ask that you respect that this is not the time for me to answer questions regarding the situation. Right now, I have a team to coach.
University of Florida President
Dr. Bernie Machen
Opening statement: "Thank you all very much for coming. First of all, it is a pleasure to follow two class acts like Jeremy Foley and Ron Zook. Jeremy and I are in agreement that this decision had to be made and that it would be the best in the long term for the University and for the athletics program. Right now I would like to focus our priorities on the upcoming schedule. We have four important games coming up and we are very much excited that Ron has graciously agreed to stay at the helm with these student-athletes and with his coaching team as we go through the next four weeks. I know that Coach Zook and the team are focused on this next month and they are committed to a successful closure to their time here at the University. Thank you very much. I will take questions for a few minutes."
On whether the search for a coach will differ from the last search: "I don't know what happened with the last search. I have run two searches for head football coaches and that is about the only way that I know how to do it. I will be intimately involved, but the athletic director is the one who tees up the candidates and makes all the contacts. We will have other people involved in making decisions about this next choice but ultimately it will be Jeremy and myself who will make it. That is the way that I have always done it and it has worked for me in the past. I am confident that it will work this time as well."
On the possibility of disagreeing with athletic director Jeremy Foley on the decision: "We are not going to. It takes two votes to get this done and we will do it."
On some possible candidates: "No, not at this time. It depends on the candidates and their interest and the things that they want to check out with the university and the things that we want to check out with the candidates. It could be a different group depending upon who the type of person is that we are interviewing."
On his relationship with Utah head coach Urban Meyer: "Urban Meyer is the head coach at the University of Utah and is in his second year of coaching. Urban Meyer was involved in the process like we are going to use here. I have not spoken to Urban since I left last January. I finished my tenure at the University of Utah in Memphis at the Liberty Bowl where the University of Utah beat Southern Mississippi, so I have no idea what his plans are. I know that he is focused right now on getting into a BCS game and I wish him the best of luck."
On when he felt he needed to get involved in the coaching situation: "Well first of all, Jeremy and I meet on a weekly basis and to say that football is all we talk about would be a mistake. We have been in conversations about the season as it has progressed from week one. We have played out a number of scenarios, so I wouldn't say that it was anything at one particular point. But we did talk Saturday after the game and yesterday, and we really made up our mind that this was the thing that we had to do over this weekend."
On the timing of the decision: "The main reason, in fairness to Coach Zook and to the athletes, was that we had made up our mind. We had seen enough to realize that we needed to make a change at the end of the season. We thought that it would be an honorable thing to do and hoped that when we did it that Coach Zook would do as he has, and that is to agree to stay and focus on the season that is left to be completed."
On having any relationship with former Gator head coach Steve Spurrier: "I do not know Mr. Spurrier at all. I have seen his picture."
On whether the off-field incidents factored into the decision: "It was not relevant to me. I think that it was more of a distraction and was frankly overblown by the media."
On the number of interviews that will be conducted and taking minority coaches into account: "Well you need to check me out. It is not your beat, but I am conducting five vice presidential searches here at the University of Florida. We have a comprehensive process. We look nationally and we interview a pool of qualified candidates, hopefully a pool that has diversity. Then, we hopefully make the right choice. That is the way that I do business within the university. This is certainly an important part of the university and we would like to do it the same way."
On meeting Steve Spurrier at the SEC basketball tournament: "He sat behind me at the basketball tournament. I met both he and his wife to shake their hands."
On the Gator fans desire to hire of Steve Spurrier and whether it will have an effect: "First of all it won't have any effect. I actually heard about this before I came to Florida, I don't know if you picked it up. The first 100 emails that I received last October, at least 25 of them were related to the football program. So I have been in full contact with the Gator Nation, not just about athletics, but about everything. I receive and send over 200 emails a day and there has been a skewed distribution over the last few days about what they have been talking about."
On being willing to buy out another coach's contract with Zook's situation at hand: "That is not a conversation that I want do have today but I do believe that the Gator Nation knows that this administration is committed to finding the right coach to lead this university into the new century. I really believe that one of the reasons that I came here to the University of Florida is that the athletics program has brought a sense that it wants to be the signature athletics program in the nation in this next century. We have to have a great football program to have that come to fact."
On whether the coaching decision would withstand if the Gators won out: "What I said was that we made our decision this Saturday such that what happens the rest of the year. I don't know if would be here if we would have beaten Mississippi State, I don't know."
On Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley's status and decision-making: "I think that this is an appropriate time to say that I think Jeremy Foley is one of the most outstanding athletic directors I have ever been associated with. I look to him to guide me through this process and to be the athletic director at the University of Florida for a long, long time."
On whether there will be a conflict with improving both academics and athletics at the University: "I want someone who buys into the vision that athletics and academic excellence are beneficial hand-in-hand. The University of Michigan is my next most recent stop. It works well there, it works here too, and it will continue to be a dual for us for this university. Thank you very much."