GAINESVILLE —The search for Florida's next head football coach has begun and this time around athletic director Jeremy Foley is in his most precarious situation. Foley, and the program, can't afford a misstep.
After coaching debacles with Ron Zook and now Will Muschamp's departure after less than four years, the pressure is on to get this one right. At 61 and in his 22nd year at the helm of the athletic program, Foley's hope is this is his final hire.
"We understand how important this hire is for this university," Foley said Monday. "We also understand the pride of the Gator Nation and we understand the pride they have in this football program. And because we have fallen short the last several years we totally understand the disappointment and their frustration. It's an amazing place and we want to make this decision right for them, this program and this university."
While he refused to get into many specifics, Foley said the new coach must possess "high integrity and character" and must be "a coach who has a track record of success on the offensive side of the ball."
He said the Gators hope to have a coach in place sometime in December, hopefully before Christmas, but he would not put a definitive timetable on it.
He knows the rumors will spread throughout the search, but said that's not his concern or something he'll try to control. He will not speak publicly during the search.
"We have not contacted anybody," Foley said. "I don't care what's been written or said, rumored, what have you, I have not talked to one coach. We will not disrupt people's seasons. We have a lot of respect for other schools and other programs and what certain schools are trying to accomplish and we have a little time here to do our research but we're not going to disrupt people's seasons. As we've always done around here but I want to make sure this is understood by everyone, we will handle this the right way."
The search and decision won't be Foley's alone: he learned 10 years ago that's a bad idea. He'll utilize staff for input and the ultimate decision will include president Bernie Machen and incoming president Dr. Kent Fuchs, who begins his tenure in January. Everything, Foley said, will be on the up and up.
"We don't cut backroom deals here, that's not how we do things here," he said. "Again, no matter what is written or said. We will talk to coaches, we will talk to athletic directors, it will be handled above board. Speaking to our fans, there will be a lot of misinformation written about the search here in the next month and I would ask them to try to wade through that."
Whomever gets the job, Muschamp said he'll inherit a talented team.
"We've got a deep and talented roster," he said. "So don't let the new guy tell you he ain't got no good players. I'll tell you that right now. There are some good football players in that locker room."
Contact Antonya English at email@example.com or (813) 226-3389. Follow @TBTimes_Gators.