A Few Minutes With Jeremy Foley

JACKSONVILLE --- All it takes is a look at the national rankings. If the Gators participate in a sport, chances are they're nationally ranked and competing for a championship. Keeping the University of Florida's sports teams among the nation's elite is the never-ending task of athletic director Jeremy Foley. Gator Country caught up with Foley Wednesday for a few minutes to talk about the state of the program.

Franz Beard: Obviously this has been one of the more successful years the athletic program has ever had. What does this say about the future of Florida athletics?

Jeremy Foley: Hopefully it says that there are still a lot of good things coming in the future. This is a business that the current status doesn't necessarily predict the future so you just have to keep working hard, keep focused on the right things, keep recruiting hard and coaches have to keep being the leaders that they are. Hopefully the future will have a lot of success for the Gators but it's also a business where you have to enjoy things while they're happening. Right now we're in such a tremendous run for the basketball program. Will it be the same way next year? You hope so but you never know. So you just take the moment, enjoy it and when the season is over you turn your attention to the next one

FB: You have to be pleased with the quality and caliber of coaches that you have in every sport. Top to bottom this is probably the best group of coaches we've ever had at the University of Florida.

JF: Coaches are the ones that set the tone for the program. I've said that since the day I was hired as the athletic director. I do think we have a great collection of coaches. Not only are they quality coaches but they are quality human beings, they represent all the right things from the way they represent the institution in a first class way to bringing in high character people … not necessarily perfect people because we have our issues just like every program does but I like the way our coaches are doing it. I really like the way they live their lives and who they are, too. One of the chief reasons this program has a chance to be so successful is because we have so many high quality coaches.

FB: I know that you have a long range plan for the future … a blueprint of where you want to see the program going in terms of facilities. Will there be anything in the immediate future in terms of immediate changes in the facilities or new construction planned? Where do you go next?

JF: We're looking at doing something with our football offices and at the same time expanding our weight room, creating a front door so to speak for our football offices which right now we don't have that. That's probably the main thing on our drawing board as we finish up the baseball complex and the practice field renovations and the Lemerand center renovations. We'll be turning our attention to that next. And then we do have some office needs within the UAA that we're working with the university on space because we have some departments like our marketing department, media and television deparments … there's not much space. Some of those things have to be taken care of. We have to continue to maintain the existing facilities which are some of the best in the country.

FB: One thing I've been asked so many times so I'll turn it to you: in the immediate future or long range are there any plans to build an athletic department museum?

JF: I get asked that question a lot. Right now that's not on the priority list. Again, you never say never and much of what we look for in the the future is a long way away. Right now there are other things that take a higher priority. It's a huge cost undertaking. Where would we put it? Certainly you want it close by where your fans could get to it, but where? Those are things you have to look at. As we go forward in the future money is going to get harder and harder just to run your athletic program. Ticket prices … we've been able to keep them at a reasonable level but they're going to have to go up in the future just like they're having to do all over the country. We are going to add a new sport. We're working on that and we're hoping to announce that by the end of the year and by that I mean the academic year, June 30. So there's a lot of things we're trying to do to keep our program moving forward and all of that takes some significant resources. I'm just not sure that right now a museum fits into that conversation. Does that mean it will never happen? You never say never but right now it's not high on the priority list.

FB: You said another sport … I presume we are talking about another women's sport?

JF: A women's sport is going to be added. We're trying to analyze which one right now and as I said, we hope to have an announcement at the end of June.

FB: It seems to me that whenever you talk about doing anything, the first thing that you have to consider is space because it is so limited.

JF: The university is expanding outward because there is no space left on campus. Ideally all our athletic facilities would be within walking distance of each other …it would be nice if your softball stadium was on campus where students could walk right to it but there's just no more space there. So we're moving out and whenever we add a sport we'll build a nice facility somewhere. But, when you start talking about adding a museum, first off on game day you want it located conveniently enough for people to be able to walk through on their way to the game but there's no space around the stadium. I don't know where that would go. That's why right now it's not a high priority but we will continue to study it and see where things are going down the road.

FB: Last question. Ten years ago you hired Billy Donovan as the basketball coach and you hit a home run with that one. Will you talk about what Billy's accomplished and the direction he's got the basketball program going?

JF: When I first met Billy 10 years ago I saw a little something in him and obviously he's turned into something special with his work ethic and who he is and the way he lives his life as well. He's a special person who's done a tremendous job coaching here. People don't understand what he's done here. You have to be a longtime Gator to understand that this program really was not part of the national scene on a consistent basis in basketball. Sure, we had pockets of success under Norm (Sloan) and we had two years under Lon (Kruger) but beyond that Florida was never a factor on the national scene. Now we have eight straight years in the tournament and 20-plus wins eight years in a row. Whenever they start talking about the quality basketball programs in America, you find that Florida's on that list and that's all due to Billy. Our great fans, our commitment to the program and obviously the University of Florida has a lot to do with that too because there is a lot for Billy to sell when he's out there recruiting people. It's a team effort but there's no question that Billy is the leader of that team and it's been a tremendous pleasure working with him and I look forward to working with him for many, many years.

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