Florida Gators AD Jeremy Foley retiring
Florida Gators athletic director Jeremy Foley is retiring after 25 seasons as the leader of one of the most powerful programs in the country.
Foley, 63, will remain in that role until Oct. 1, when his replacement takes over. Foley will stay on as the school's emeritus athletic director.
"As difficult as a decision it has been to make," Foley said in a statement, "I know the time is right."
Foley's tenure brought unprecedented success to Gainesville. No active AD has more national championships than Foley, who added a 27th when the men's outdoor track and field team won a title Friday.
He's the only AD in Division I history to win multiple national championships in football and men's basketball. The Gators won three football titles (1996, 2006, 2008) and two in basketball (2006-07) under his watch.
"Jeremy's amazing accomplishments as Athletics Director are well known, and the university is very grateful to him for the national championships, a winning sports program that is highly ranked year after and, and the growth of women's sports," UF president Kent Fuchs said in a statement. "Jeremy also has a well-deserved reputation for recruiting the nation's most talented coaches and building an athletic association that is recognized as among the very best in the country.
"What I especially appreciate about Jeremy, however, is his integrity and his commitment to our students. Success to Jeremy is a student athlete who graduates and wins championships in the right way. That is the culture he created here over his 25-year career and it is what we will remember about his remarkable tenure as Athletics Director."
Under Foley, UF finished in the top five nationally in all-sports rankings 17 times and won the SEC All-Sports Trophy in every year but one. The athletic department grew from 366 players and a $30 million budget to 479 athletes and a $119 million budget.
"Jeremy Foley has led the University of Florida athletics program to incredible success during his 25 years as its athletics director," SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement. "He has led with integrity and a passion for the young people who have populated the Gators' athletic rosters since 1992. His commitment to student-athletes, his support of Florida's coaches and staff, his love for the University and his vision over the last quarter of a century have set an all-around standard for excellence. He is one of the great leaders I have encountered and I look forward to working with him during this period of transition, and to seeing him for many years ahead as he enters a new phase of life."
Foley's success is most obvoius in the revenue sports. UF produced two Heisman Trophy winners during his watch. Foley hired Urban Meyer out of Utah - a move that produced two national titles in three seasons. Foley also hired Billy Donovan, who spent two years at Marshall before bringing in back-to-back titles for the Gators.
"I came here to be able to work with Jeremy, so this is obviously a sad day," men's basketball coach Mike White said via Twitter. "He has built a culture of excellence in this athletic department and has done it with character and integrity."
Former UF president Bernie Machen said in a statement that Foley is among the best workers he's ever known.
"I've worked with a lot of people, and I've never worked with anybody who was better at their job than Jeremy," Machen said. "He's well known of course in athletics, but my experience cuts across many things besides athletics and Jeremy was just the best at what he did. On the one hand, replacing him could be harder than replacing Urban Meyer, Steve Spurrier or Billy Donovan. On the other hand, he is leaving a program that is on the top of its game. In every corner of the athletic program, you'll find excellence, and that's a tribute to Jeremy. I think he just finally realized that it can't get much better than this and 25 years is enough time."
Charlie Strong -- a former UF football assistant and interim coach in 2004 -- called Foley "an unbelievable leader but more importantly a great man."
"Jeremy has done an amazing job and is someone I was lucky to work for and learned a lot from," said Strong, now the head coach at Texas. "The thing that really stands out with Jeremy is his passion - passion for the programs, coaches, student-athletes, their families, the staff and the Florida Gators. He just brought so much energy to the Athletic Department and pushed everyone to be the best each and every day."
Foley will address reporters at a news conference on Tuesday.
Here's the full statement from Foley:
After a long period of thought and consideration, I have made a decision to retire as the Athletics Director effective October 1, 2016. As difficult as a decision it has been to make, I know the time is right.
So many memories. Of championships won. Of teams setting goals and then achieving them. The passion shown by Florida fans across the state, nation and world. Those letters or emails from student-athletes after they receive their degrees, so appreciative of their Gator experience.
Those are what I'll take with me because they are a part of me. This is a special place built by the effort, passion and drive of our coaches and student-athletes.
What a privilege it has been to be a part of this athletic program. It's never been a job - the relentless energy from the student-athletes and coaches ensured that. I've worked with some of the best in the business and met some truly outstanding people. I've been part of some memorable Gator events and Championships. I came to work every day with a staff full of friends and we've shared every emotion along the way. I have been truly blessed with a career I have loved at a place I love.
But now it is time for me to step aside. I firmly believe that after 25 years with one leader, new thoughts and new ideas will continue to move this program forward. Timing is as good as it can be because currently we have a tremendous group of coaches and professional staff. As good as there is in the country. New leadership will inherit an incredibly talented group of people. Our budget is in good shape. All of our programs are achieving at the highest level. We are being successful without sacrificing our integrity. We are a positive reflection on the institution.
As hard as it is for me personally, as this organization and this career has been my life's work, it is time for me to personally move forward in a new direction. I firmly believe my time as Athletics Director is ending so that I can move into the next phase of my life. And I eagerly look forward to this next phase.
But I'll still be watching - and cheering - because I'll always be a Gator.