O'Sullivan Not the First "First" at UF

I can't count the number of times I have heard Gator Athletic Director Jeremy Foley make the point that the University of Florida is "not a first job". It directly addresses Foley's belief that the demands and attention that goes with being a head coach at Florida make it very difficult for an inexperienced coach to succeed here.

I tend to agree.

Yet here is Foley turning his baseball program over to a novice, Kevin O'Sullivan in hopes of finding the guy who will finally make the Gators a consistent winner year in and year out. It's a risk, for sure, but it certainly is not unprecedented. Foley and his predecessors have at times given a coach with no experience at the top the chance to take the reins of a Gator program. As you might expect, those hiring decisions have generated mixed results. Let's look at a few of the "experiments" with hiring inexperienced head coaches.

Ron Zook ----- Perhaps the riskiest hire in Foley's tenure at Florida, Zook was a long time assistant in college and the NFL when he got the chance to succeed Steve Spurrier. A knowledgeable football guy and tireless recruiter, Zook deserves credit for re-stocking the talent level in Gainesville. However he also struggled with several aspects of being the man in charge. His mishandling of the fraternity situation was his eventual undoing along with a propensity for losing to every school that begins with "Mi" (Miami, Michigan, Mississippi and Mississippi State).

Andy Brandi ----- He was a proven coach of individual talents, but had not been at the college level when he took over UF in 1984. 17 years later he had 460 wins and three National Championships. He left a loaded roster that was the core of another NCAA title two years after his departure.

Mary Wise ----- She was the top assistant at the second best program in the SEC (Kentucky) when Florida chose her to take over the Volleyball program in 1991. All Wise did was tie for the SEC Title in her first season and continued to win (or share) the SEC crown every season since. Wise has guided Florida to the Final Four seven times, and is still chasing that elusive NCAA Title.

Galen Hall ----- The likeable career assistant became Florida's interim head coach with the dismissal of Charley Pell three games into the 1984 season. He guided the Gators to win after win after win and was offered the job on a full-time basis after claiming the SEC Title in Lexington, Kentucky. Hall coached the Gators to a 9-1-1 record in 1985 before the departure of Pell's players, affect of NCAA sanctions and mediocre recruiting combined to weaken the program. Florida posted a 19-16 record from 1986-88, and Hall was dismissed five games (4-1) into the 1989 campaign. His one great recruiting class, 1987 featured Emmitt Smith, Brad Culpepper, Tony McCoy and many others and formed the core of the Gators 1990-91 teams that topped the SEC standings.

So some first time head coaches have worked out fair, others turned out great. We could add a number of swim coaches to this list as well as three women's basketball coaches and the results would be the same. Some did extremely well and others not so much. The bottom line is that Kevin O'Sullivan will decide his fate himself. His background says he's ready for the challenge.

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