VETTEL: Interview With Jeremy Foley, Part III

In the third part of my visit with Gator Athletic Director Jeremy Foley we look at the current state of the Gator program. Florida has been dominating the SEC All-Sports standings for better than a decade but the Gators are getting stronger and stronger challenges from Tennessee and Georgia for All-Sports dominance in the nation's top sports conference.

The Gators are as always in the process of evaluating and updating the facilities on campus and we discuss that as well. And we talk about the likely addition of a new team to the women's sports program.

With that I give you chapter three of Vettel and Foley:

LV: How would you assess the state of the Gator program today?

JF: It's good, it's healthy but certainly it could be better in a number of areas. Still, we're going to be a program that's in the hunt top ten in the Sears Cup again and we're going to be in the hunt, again for the All-Sports Trophy. That's to be determined here in the next few weeks, and yet anybody who follows the program can see where we can get better. We're not as good as we can be. You've heard me say a thousand times this is a program because of its resources and the commitment and the fan base we have and the institution we recruit to that we should be in the hunt in every single sport. We should be knocking on the door for conference championships and going deep into NCAA tournaments in every single sport. Some we are, some we're close and some we aren't where we need to be. So the state of the program is healthy but it's still a challenge to be better and I think we can be better.

LV: There have been years where Florida dominance of the SEC All-Sports standings went unchallenged, but Tennessee and Georgia have made huge strides in challenging the Gators in that area. Does that raise the bar and raise the challenge?

JF: Yes it does, and I think that's a credit to them. It's something that piques the competitive juices even more. We see what's happening at other places and step back and say some of those things can be happening here. So it does raise the bar, it makes us work harder. I don't think anyone has passed us yet but in some areas they've caught us and that's the challenge for us to deal with.

LV: There's also a challenge facility-wise and that's something we talk about al the time. We are things drawing-board wise and what are fans going to see next as far as upgrades on campus?

JF: The big project, Larry, is a locker room-office complex for the baseball program. We'll start that project in July. It'll go down the left field line and I know people have a hard time envisioning it so at some point we'll put some pictures on the web for people to see. Basically it'll be underneath the stands down the left field line. There will be new stands involved and it will have a new locker room, new offices, indoor batting cages, indoor pitching mounds a training room and equipment room.

Then, when the baseball team leaves the Lemerrand Center we're going to renovate all the locker rooms in there so we'll have bigger locker rooms for volleyball, soccer and both track programs. It's about a $13 million project and at the same time we're building a third practice field at the football practice area that'll be made of field turf, which is an artificial surface. It necessitates moving some fields down there and moving a retaining wall. We'll end up with about a 75-yard field turf field that'll be regulation width. It also entails new lighting and moving some lights so it's not as simplistic as it sounds.

LV: As you look forward is there a "dream facility" out there that you wish you could add --- something you've seen elsewhere and thought you wish you could build something like it in Gainesville?

JF: Not really. I think we in intercollegiate athletics often get accused of "keeping up with the Jones's." I'm proud of our facilities here. We're doing the baseball facility because it needs to be done. I don't know if you've ever been in our baseball locker room but it's too small, tiny, embarrassing. Volleyball is too small, soccer is too small. Those are programmatic needs we are addressing not because Arkansas or Auburn has better locker rooms because I don't know. I just know we need them here. The field turf situation is something Urban thought was important. We want to have high quality facilities, we want to make sure to maintain the ones we have and we want to be able to expand and build when our facilities need it.

LV: Recently the NCAA added about a half dozen scholarships on the women's side in an effort to further enhance compliance with Title IX. Are you comfortable with that effort?

JF: Yeah, I'm comfortable. It's something I've been advocating for a long time. It means seven more scholarships, which is almost the equivalent of adding another team. There are no new coaches, no new facilities, but additional opportunities for women. I think it helps the conversation here and nationally in trying to get the percentage-wise with our women opportunities but I still think you're going to see us add another women's team in the next couple of years.

LV: As you for an additional sport, how important is it that you and the SEC go hand in hand in that?

JF: Ideally that would be wonderful. That's what happened with soccer and softball, but I'm not sure it's possible this time. So we also have to look at it on the national level. How soon can we compete? Are there NCAA championships in that sport? Is there legitimate competition somewhat near where we live? In think in a perfect world, yeah, we like to win conference championships. We want to be able to compete for that but if there's no opportunity for the SEC we have to shoot for national titles. We like to win them, too.

LV: What about rifle? There aren't many rifle teams?

JF: You're exactly right.

LV: How important a role will facilities play in being able to accommodate a new team with what's currently available?

JF: Facilities are a huge part of it. We built a very fine softball stadium and soccer complex and that was a huge financial commitment. Space is a problem on this campus so we would have to work with the university to talk about that. Certainly the facility part of the equation is a huge part of the consideration. Where would they be housed? Where would they practice? Where would they compete? We got to try and figure all that out and hopefully come up with a decision.

LV: How soon do you think that'll be?

JF: Candidly in the next year, year and a half. Lynda Tealer, our Senior Women's Administrator, and I have been talking about it for some time and she's working on some proposals and some different thoughts and at some point we'll involve our Title IX committee and try to figure it out from there.

LV: So what are some of the sports under consideration?

JF: We've talked about crew, lacrosse, water polo, equestrian, field hockey … I'm not so sure but it's on the table. Bowling is one. There is an NCAA Championship in bowling now so you got to look at all those things.

LV: Bowling! I like that, bowling and rifle would be great.

JF: You'd like that, huh?! Okay we have one vote for bowling and rifle.

Well I don't think rifle will be the choice, but bowling really makes a lot of sense in that you don't have to build a facility and you might be able to carve out some locker space in the Reitz Union. But where on earth does one look for a bowling coach?

Hope you enjoyed this series with Florida's Athletic Director. I'm sure we'll do it again in six months or so.

Keep those emails coming!

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I look forward to you joining me on the radio, Sunday nights from 6:00-to-8:00 on Gainesville's WSKY-FM 97.3 (877/975-9825 toll free)

Have a great week.

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