May 22, 2016

Florida claims SEC All-Sports Trophy for 26th time in 29 years

GAINESVILLE -- Florida did it again. 

For the ninth-straight year, the Gators won the SEC All-Sports title, sweeping the 2015-16 GateHouse Media men’s, women’s and overall divisions for the 15th-time in program history. 

“Throughout the season, Gator teams have competed among the nation’s best, as the Southeastern Conference is such a competitive league across all sports,” UF athletics director Jeremy Foley said in a release. 

“This sweep of the SEC All-Sports trophies shows the tremendous commitment and drive out student-athletes and coaches.”

Texas A&M finished second, while Georgia finished third, as scores are computed by taking the points earned in each sport and dividing them by the number of teams participating. Points are awarded based on the number of teams in each sport. 

UF, which has won the award 26 times in school history, captured conference titles in gymnastics, soccer, softball, men’s swimming and diving and women’s tennis this year. The Gators also picked up six SEC Athletes of the Year honors in 2015-16, too. 

Florida should only continue its overall dominance in the weeks to come, too, as the Gators have a number of top teams competing for conference and national titles led by the No. 1 women’s softball team. 

2015-16 SEC All-Sports Overall Standings

1. Florida (172.5 points)

2. Texas A&M (156 points)

3. Georgia (132.5 points)

4. Auburn (125 points)

5. Kentucky (118 points)

6. Alabama (105 points)

7. Arkansas (103 points)

8. Tennessee (97.5 points)

9. South Carolina (97 points)

10. Mississippi (89 points)

11. Missouri (88 points)

12. LSU (88 points)

13. Vanderbilt (62.5 points)

14. Mississippi State (61 points)

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April 13, 2016

Foley: "Very good chance" Florida-Miami meet in Orlando in 2019

GAINESVILLE -- Last October, reports surfaced that the Florida-Miami rivalry would likely be renewed in 2019

But after six months of radio silence, Gators athletics director Jeremy Foley essentially confirmed the rumors on Wednesday. 

The Gators and Hurricanes would meet in Orlando in the newly renovated Citrus Bowl.  

Foley told the Sun, “There’s a very good chance it will happen, but that’s not final yet.”

He later added, “I’m confident it will happen. Hopefully we’ll know something in the next couple of months.”

Florida and Miami have played just six times since the annual series was discontinued in 1987. The Hurricane beat the Gators 21-16 in 2013 -- the most recent meeting in the rivalry. 

The timing on Foley’s statement comes just one day after Florida head coach Jim McElwain was asked about playing Miami at a campus event Tuesday.

“It’s something we’ve talked about,” McElwain said. 

“There might be some things in the works, and yet, I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag there at al. It’s definitely not one of those things that we’re dodging them, I’ll say that.”

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March 29, 2016

UF retains same offensive staff for first time since 2007 season

GAINESVILLE -- The coaching carousel in football -- both in college and the pros -- is a time of year now as much as flu season, so Florida’s second-year head coach Jim McElwain placed an extra emphasis on staff continuity this offseason as he continues to rebuild the program.

Barring any unforeseen moves, the Gators will enter the fall with the same offensive staff for the first time since the 2007 season under former coach Urban Meyer. 

“When you break down a lot of those programs that have been consistently successful, they haven’t had a ton of turnover,” McElwain said. 

"That consistency is something that is huge. For us to stick together … it’s a good thing.”

Since 2007, Florida has had 21 offensive staff changes, including six coordinators and receivers coaches. 

UF’s offensive staff in 2015 and 2016

Doug Nussmeier - Offensive Coordinator/Quaterbacks coach

Kerry Dixon - Wide Receivers coach

Tim Skipper - Tailbacks coach

Mike Summers - Offensive Line coach 

Greg Nord - Tight Ends coach

UF’s offensive staff in 2006 and 2007 

Dan Mullen - Offensive Coordinator/Quaterbacks coach

Stan Drayton - Tailbacks coach

Steve Addazio - Tight Ends/Tackles coach

Billy Gonzales - Wide Receivers coach

John Hevesy - Guards/Centers coach

This offseason, Florida offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier rebuffed Southern Miss’ advances and decided to remain in Gainesville, while the Gators retained offensive line coach Mike Summers. Kerry Dixon (receivers), Tim Skipper (tailbacks) and Greg Nord (tight ends) all remain on staff, too. 

Continuity was good for recruiting and has been evident in camp this spring also, as the open-portions of practice have run smoother. The players aren’t swimming learning a new system again, either.  

McElwain (and Florida’s administration) smartly incentivized continuity by giving assistants multi-year contracts and retention bonuses.

Now we’ll see how much the move pays dividends in the fall. 

Florida’s offense still has plenty of question marks moving forward, but a lack of staff cohesion is no longer an issue. 

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March 28, 2016

McElwain on joining the $4 million club: "I've come a ways"

GAINESVILLE -- Nearly 30 years ago, Jim McElwain earned $4,723 in his first coaching job at Eastern Washington. 

“Still have the contract,” he said, chuckling. 

To make ends meet, Florida’s second-year head coach also “taught classes, tended bar and worked at JCPenny’s.”

“I’ve come a ways,” he said.

Truly. 

McElwain joined the $4 million coaching club in February, as Florida announced his $750,000 raise on Friday. 

The Gators’ coach now earns $4.25 million annually, becoming the highest-paid coach in the SEC East after winning the division in his first year. 

“I’ve said this before but there’s times I just walk out to practice and it’s hard to imagine I’m at the University of Florida,” McElwain said. 

"It's so good to know that your university and your administration believes in the direction that we're taking this thing. It's something that sends a message in recruiting. Just the belief in our organization and where we're going. We got a ways to go now, but I'm happy for all of us."

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March 25, 2016

McElwain gets a raise, now the highest paid coach in SEC East

GAINESVILLE -- After becoming the first Florida coach to win 10 games in his inaugural season, Jim McElwain was rewarded with a raise. 

The Gators’ second-year coach received a $750,000 bump on Feb. 1, the school announced Friday. 

McElwain, whose deal runs through 2020, is now the highest paid coach in the SEC East, earning 4.25 million annually. 

The 54-year-old coach's compensation ranks sixth overall in the conference, behind Nick Saban ($6.9 million), Kevin Sumlin ($5 million), Hugh Freeze ($4.7 million), Gus Malzahn ($4.35 million) and Les Miles ($4.3 million).

"We recognized early in Coach Mac's tenure that he totally changed the vibe around football for The Gator Nation and in the building," UF athletics director Jeremy Foley said in a statement. 

"Dr. Fuchs and I first talked about this in mid-October -- We didn't want to make it about winning one game or advancing to the SEC Championship Game.

"We wanted to make a change because of the direction of the program and his leadership. From the moment he set foot on this campus, he has steadily put into place his blueprint for the football program. His efforts have been relentless. We are very grateful to have him and his family in Gainesville."

Florida sprinted to a surprising 6-0 start in 2015, climbing as high as No. 8 in the polls. But following quarterback Will Grier’s suspension for violating the NCAA’s performance-enhancing drug policy, UF’s offense tanked and the team went 4-4 down the stretch including a three-game losing streak to end the season. 

Still, McElwain was named the SEC Coach of the Year by the Associated Press, earning a $25,000 bonus. McElwain also received bonuses for leading the Gators to the SEC Championship and the Citrus Bowl. 

"It's great to know that our university and administration believe in the direction we are taking this program,'' McElwain said in a statement. 

"This sends a strong message about the things we are putting in place and the work of the entire organization. It sends a real message in recruiting that we have the support and confidence in our long-term vision.”

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February 03, 2016

What compliment? McElwain fires back at Bielema's quip

GAINESVILLE -- Arkansas coach Bret Bielema mades waves Wednesday when he called Florida “the new Ole Miss,” adding, “They’re doing some things in recruiting that kind of shocks you a little bit.”

Shots fired? 

Not so, according to Bielema, who quickly backpedaled and explained that he was actually complimenting Ole Miss, currently under an NCAA investigation for recruiting violations, and Florida. 

Gators coach Jim McElwain wasn’t buying it, though. 

“You got to get a kick out of it a little bit because obviously this guy doesn't know who the heck I am,” McElwain said.

“I sure as heck don't know who he is. I'm not sure we really ran into him on the recruiting trail, but you know I know what I'm all about. I know what the University of Florida is all about and I think if you were to poll anybody in college football I think that they'd know that Mac does it right. I have no idea what this guy was talking about to be honest.”

During Wednesday’s National Signing Day, JUCO three-star cornerback Joseph Putu flipped from Arkansas to UF, while the Gators also beat out the Razorbacks (among others) for talented four-star receiver Tyrie Cleveland. 

Bielema told reporters he called McElwain to apologize, and it was “received well.”

“I said something earlier that came across in the wrong way, I guess. I was paying a compliment to Florida. We’ve seen them kind of pop up everywhere. Before my last couple years here, really had only competed against Florida in Georgia and Florida itself a lot, because I love to recruit Florida. Well, this last week we were competing against them on a wide receiver in Texas, a running back, a player in Louisiana and a player in North Dakota. And I’ve never seen that before; that’s all I was making reference to.

“It’s kind of like last week, we stumbled across an offensive lineman in Illinois and I really liked him and started to proceed with him and found out he _ before I got anything going _ had had committed to Ole Miss. And I told my staff, ‘Ole Miss, they’re everywhere.’ That’s kind of the comment we make. It wasn’t in reference to anything other than that. I mean that wholeheartedly and honestly, and when I said that earlier, I was paying a compliment to Florida.”

Interestingly enough, Florida travels to Arkansas for the first time since 2003 on Nov. 5.

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December 17, 2015

UAA Approved: Florida raising ticket prices for 2016 season

GAINESVILLE -- On the heels of an unexpected 10-3 season and a berth in the SEC Championship Game, the Florida Gators are raising ticket prices for the 2016 season -- coincidentally perhaps -- but also in advance of the worst home schedule in years. 

The University Athletic Association Board of Directors approved a price hike of 33 percent for student season tickets and 10 percent for booster season tickets, as first reported by The Gainesville Sun. 

Although tickets prices were modestly raised, booster fees remain unchanged for the third straight year. 

“These additional dollars will allow us to continue to maintain a high-level athletic program in our 21 sports,” Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said in a statement on FloridaGators.com

“Our students are very important to us. They create a special environment at all our venues and we try to maintain reasonable prices for them. That’s the reason why this is the first increase in four years.”

According to the UAA, booster season tickets will now be $330 -- instead of $300 per season ticket package. Student prices will go from $105 to $140 for the seven-game slate -- or $5 per game. Foley noted that the increase still leaves Florida “the the median range relative to other SEC programs.”

In Jim McElwain’s first season, the Gators sold out The Swamp four times -- something former coach Will Muschamp didn’t do in four seasons. UF went 6-1 at home, losing the finale 27-2 to Florida State. 

But the price hike comes at a tough time, as Florida's 2016 home schedule is a drag. The Gators non-conference slate -- UMass, North Texas and Presbyterian -- is awful and LSU is the only conference opponent that finished the 2015 season with a winning record. 

Of note though, Muschamp will return to The Swamp on Nov. 12 with South Carolina. 

THIS & THAT

Three-star defensive end JaQuan Bailey (Jacksonville Raines) decommitted from UF on Wednesday, and Miami Central three-star defensive end Eric Mitchell backed off his UF pledge on Thursday. Florida’s 2016 class now stands at 24 commits and is ranked No. 8 according to 247Sports. … Wideout Antonio Callaway, a star at Miami Booker T. Washington, and defensive end CeCe Jefferson were both named to ESPN’s True Freshman All-American team. Callaway quickly emerged as a dynamic playmaker, leading the Gators with 603 receiving yards and four touchdowns and adding two punt return scores, too. Jefferson, a former five-star recruit, was also a standout, recording 8.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.  

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November 21, 2015

Florida QB Will Grier loses NCAA appeal

 

#FreeWilly

A photo posted by Chad Grier (@coachgrier7) on Nov 16, 2015 at 10:09am PST

 

GAINESVILLE -- The NCAA has spoken, and Florida’s 2015 remake of “Free Willy” doesn’t have a happy ending. 

Gators quarterback Will Grier lost his appeal for violating the NCAA’s performance-enhancing drug policy, and the redshirt freshman remains suspended until Oct. 15, 2016. 

The Orlando Sentinel first reported the news and UF later confirmed the report on its official football Twitter account. 

Grier sought to have his calendar-year suspension reduced to the remainder of the 2015 season, participating in a conference call with his lawyers from Morgan & Morgan and the NCAA on Monday. 

But the with appeal denied, Florida’s former starting quarterback is ineligible for the first six games next season. 

Grier was 5-0 as UF’s starter, throwing for 1,204 yards and 10 touchdowns in six games. 

Sophomore quarterback Treon Harris, 3-1 as as starter since taking over for Grier, and Oregon State transfer Luke Del Rio could compete for the starting job next fall. 

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November 13, 2015

Jim McElwain pokes fun at AD Jeremy Foley

GAINESVILLE -- Jim McElwain is riding high. 

The No. 11 Florida Gators’ first-year coach is the only SEC East coach ever to lead his team to the conference championship game in his first season at the helm. 

The Gators (8-1, 7-1) clinched the division with a 9-7 win over Vanderbilt and play at South Carolina this weekend (noon, ESPN). 

Earlier this week, McElwain was sporting a sharp, oxford shirt. Asked if athletic director Jeremy Foley gave it to him as a gift, McElwain seized an opportunity to take a friendly shot at Foley's frugalness. 

Just dial the video up to 13:45. 

Who thinks McElwain is getting a raise and probably more facility upgrades this offseason? (Everyones hands get raised). 

THIS & THAT

Three-star defensive end Jachai Polite (Daytona Beach-Mainland) verbally pledged to Florida on Thursday. The Gators’ 2016 class now has 22 commitments. … Despite drilling the game-winning field goal Saturday, Austin Hardin hasn’t cemented his spot as Florida’s first-team kicker. McElwain wouldn’t commit to Hardin, saying newly walk-on Neil McInnes remains the team’s “short kicker.”  

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August 27, 2015

Foley: O'Dome renovation plans likely finalized soon

GAINESVILLE -- With Florida's $17 million indoor practice facility recently completed, the plans for the school's next major project remain on track. 

Gators athletics director Jeremy Foley said the contract for the Stephen C. O’Connell Center renovation -- delayed a year due to budgeting issues with the project’s initial construction firm -- should be finalized in the near future. 

“We’re getting close. The process now is to finalize the pricing,” Foley said Wednesday. 

“We’re close on that.” 

Florida -- both the school and University Athletic Association -- is negotiating with Brasfield & Gorrie, a Birmingham, Alabama-based company. UF has earmarked roughly $60 million for the O'Dome renovations -- which include overhauled concourses, renovated concession stands and club seating -- but is seeking a more managable budget. 

“I would say once that pricing gets set and once we’re set, meaning the contract to the University and Athletic Association, here’s the pricing, we’re OK with the schedule, then we’ll let the world know,” Foley said. 

“I think we’re close to being able to let the world know. We’re just not there yet. I would hope in the next three weeks maybe, a month or so, we can tell people this is what pricing is going to be, this is the timetable. I can tell you it’s going to happen. That I can tell you.”

The plan remains to begin construction in March 2016, with the goal of completing the renovation in time for Florida’s conference schedule in early January 2017. 

“That’s the same time frame. I don’t expect any snafus,” Foley said. 

“I’m confident about that. Now that being said, until everything is signed, you don’t have a done deal. Like any contract until it’s signed you don’t have a done deal. I’m very confident where we’re headed. Very confident.”  

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July 13, 2015

McElwain: Indoor Practice Facility ahead of schedule

HOOVER, Ala. -- Florida’s first-year coach Jim McElwain has focused on upgrading the team’s facilities and infrastructure during his initial months on the job, and he delivered some notable news Monday on the school’s biggest project yet. 

Construction on Florida’s $17 million indoor practice facility is currently ahead of schedule. The project, initially projected for completion in September, should be available during training camp. 

“It was long needed,” McElwain said.

“It’s a beautiful facility. It sounds like we’ll at least be able to get a permit to go ahead and spend a couple hours in there as we go through two-a-days this fall. That’s something really exciting for our guys.”

McElwain also said the refurbished athletic dorms will be ready by the fall.

“Gutting out some of the dorms, the living arrangements, is something we tackled right away," he explained.

"That should be finished up for these guys to be moving in this fall. We’re excited about that and the security within those dorms. It’s something that’s really important.”

The Gators have a number of other projects on the docket, too, namely renovating and expanding the academic center.

“We’re moving in the right direction,” McElwain said.

“We’ve got a long ways to go, but it’s good to see that those things are happening.”

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May 07, 2015

Reports: La. Tech's White emerges as top candidate

GAINESVILLE -- Louisiana Tech coach Michael White “has emerged as the leading candidate” to replace former Florida coach Billy Donovan, Yahoo! Sports reported Thursday. 

ESPN and other outlets quickly confirmed Pat Forde’s scoop, too. 

White, the son of Duke athletics director Kevin White, is regarded as one of college basketball’s hottest young coaches, leading the Bulldogs to three-straight Conference USA regular-season titles. The 38-year-old coach is 101-40 in four seasons at La Tech, but he’s yet to make an NCAA Tournament.

White is considered a strong recruiter, with a track record of success in the state of Florida. 

According to Yahoo! Sports’ report, White and UF athletics director Jeremy Foley could meet “as soon as today.”

White was born in Dunedin and played at Ole Miss from 1995-99. He began his coaching career as an assistant at Jacksonville State before returning to his alma mater as a part of Andy Kennedy’s staff from 2004-11. White was reportedly targeted for openings at Tennessee and Missouri last offseason. 

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April 30, 2015

Hot Board: Where does Florida turn next?

GAINESVILLE -- Replacing Billy Donovan is an unenviable task, but Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley is charged with finding a coach suitable to fill Donovan’s footsteps. 

Good luck. 

Foley will oversee a second major hire in the last six months, as the Gators will have a new football and basketball coach in the same year for the first time since 1990-91. They’ll be the only Power 5 school in the country with such a duo. 

As is stands, Florida has the lone college basketball opening in the nation. 

Donovan built UF into a national powerhouse, but the program is at a bit of a crossroads with just a decent roster and facilities that need upgrading. Is Florida actually an elite job, or was Donovan what made the Gators an annual contender?

We’ll see.

Here’s a list of candidates Foley may pursue. 

1. Archie Miller, Dayton head coach -- The hottest name potentially linked to Florida. The 36-year-old (and younger brother of Arizona coach Sean Miller) is a considered a rising star after taking the Flyers to the Elite Eight in 2013-14. 

2. John Pelphrey, Florida assistant head coach -- The former South Alabama and Arkansas head coach has been Donovan’s top assistant since 2011. Ideally, Donovan would prefer Pelphrey succeed him. 

3. Chris Mack, Xavier head coach -- An Ohio native, Mack has an impressive résumé (three Sweet 16 births in six seasons) but few ties to the South. 

4. Michael White, Louisiana Tech head coach -- Another rising star and the son of Duke athletic director Kevin White. He played at Ole Miss and is considered a strong recruiter with success in the state of Florida. 

5. Richard Pitino, Minnesota head coach -- A former UF assistant from 2009-11, but Rick Pitino’s son has never made the NCAA Tournament in five seasons as a head coach. 

6. Jay Wright, Villanova head coach -- Easily the most accomplished coach on the list and a longshot candidate. Foley loves him, but Wright is a Northeast native and has coached at Nova for 14 years.  

7. Steve Prohm, Murray State head coach -- Prohm, who went to Alabama, has dominated the Ohio Valley Conference, leading the Racers to a 104-29 record in four seasons. Another longshot candidate.   

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March 24, 2015

Basketball weight room set for $1.2 million expansion

GAINESVILLE -- The weight room at Florida’s basketball facility will be upgraded, the University Athletic Associated announced Tuesday. 

The weight room -- used by both basketball teams and the men’s and women’s golf and tennis teams --will undergo a $1.2 million renovation and nearly double in size (1,525 square feet to 3,056 square feet). 

The project, which includes expanded office space and a nutritional bar, is scheduled to start in April and finish sometime in August. 

“This project will enhance the top-tier training space for our men’s and women’s programs in that facility,” UAA executive associate director for internal affairs Chip Howard said in a release. 

“When completed, it’ll ensure our coaches can continue to recruit, retain and empower our student-athletes to perform at the highest possible level.” 

Last month, UF athletics director Jeremy Foley indicated coach Billy Donovan was satisfied with Florida’s facilities but that the weight room was likely to be bulked up in the near future. 

“I think the thing people don’t understand is you don’t have coaches banging on doors -- Billy Donovan he’s worried about coaching and recruiting,” Foley explained. 

“It’s just you walk in that facility and it has served us well for a while, but you have four teams lifting in there, well really more. You have men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s tennis and men’s and women’s basketball. It’s just not big enough right now. So we are going to expand that and maybe even start that this summer.”

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February 25, 2015

O'Connell Center renovations delayed a year

GAINESVILLE -- The O’Connell Center’s massive renovations will be put on hold. 

Florida and the University Athletic Association announced Wednesday construction on the O’Dome will be delayed one year. 

The UAA cited the $60 million project’s “aggressive schedule, escalating costs associated with the rehabilitation project and a change in the construction management team” as reasons for the postponement. 

The renovation was scheduled to begin in early March, immediately after the conclusion of the men’s basketball season. 

“We remain 100 percent committed to this project,” UF athletics director Jeremy Foley said in a release.  

“The $60 million that we have already earmarked for the project is indicative of this commitment.”

Although UF has “earmarked” the funds, the UAA has yet to raise (via private donors) the estimated $60 million. 

A new construction manager has been hired and a budget and timeline are expected “in the next couple months.” The current design plays are roughly 60 percent complete, with a new entrance, renovated concession stands, club seating and chair backs already included. 

“The renovation proposal is a major renewal of one of our campus’s most iconic buildings. It’s incumbent on us to take the time and do it right,” UF president Kent Fuchs said.

Florida’s basketball team was not scheduled to play its non-conference games during the 2015-16 season in the O'Dome, planning a barnstorming tour across the state. 

Now, UF will play all its home games in the O’Dome and any other changes to events “generally held in the O’Connell Center will be made once information is confirmed.” 

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February 21, 2015

Florida not penalized for NCAA violation

GAINESVILLE -- Former University of Florida football assistant Joker Phillips committed a Level II NCAA violation last summer for having “impermissible contact with a prospect,” but UF wasn’t penalized after properly handling the situation.

In a ruling released Friday, the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions determined “the corrective actions and penalties self-imposed by the school were appropriate and assigned no additional penalties or measures.”

Phillips, who served as the Gators’ wide receivers coach in 2013, resigned from UF on June 11, citing “personal reasons.”

But the former Kentucky head coach had already been suspended by the school from all off-campus recruiting for 30 days beginning on April 10, 2014.

Florida also ended the recruitment of the prospect involved in the illegal “bump.”

Phillips was not named in the report, but details describe a restaurant meeting with a recruit during a mandated dead period. According to the NCAA, Phillips’ “bump” --  notably arranged by a recruiting service reporter -- resulted in a recruiting advantage for the Gators and “exceeded the boundaries of permissible recruiting.”

Still, UF wasn’t levied penalties due to its swift action and the determination Phillips acted alone and without direction. 

“The University of Florida Athletic Association takes pride in the culture of compliance it has built over the years. Integrity is one of the core values of our organization -- we act in a fair, ethical and honest manner and we strive to do things the right way every day,” UF athletic director Jeremy Foley said.

“That is why we took quick and decisive action after we learned of a recruiting contact rule violation involving one of our assistant football coaches in January 2014. We stopped recruiting the involved student-athlete, we removed the assistant coach from all recruiting activities, and later secured his resignation. We thank the NCAA Committee on Infractions for their thoughtful deliberation. We look forward to putting this issue behind us and we will continue to operate with the highest level of integrity and compliance.”

Phillips is currently the wide receivers coach for the Cleveland Browns. 

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February 10, 2015

Foley: Muschamp is "free to make a living"

GAINESVILLE -- Florida finished National Signing Day with a flurry, but after a number of ballyhooed in-state targets signed with Auburn, a former friend-turned-foe became the focal point of frustration in the Gator Nation.

Former UF coach Will Muschamp, now the Tigers’ defensive coordinator, helped AU land five-star defensive end Byron Coward, as well as four-star linebacker Jeffery Holland and four-star wideouts Ryan Davis and Javarius Davis. He also flipped UF offensive tackle commit Mike Horton. 

Gator fans were infuriated. Muschamp was recruiting against his former employer, while still getting paid by Florida. 

UF athletic director Jeremy Foley, who’s been criticized for not structuring a contract to protect the university against such possibilities, said he understands fans’ “angst” but that “it’s part of the deal.”

"First of all, it's a one-year conversation,” Foley said. 

“I get the angst that that causes. But at the end of the day, we terminated Will. It's not like he moved on on his own. We terminated his contract. We said we needed to go in a different direction. He's free to work. He's free to go get a job. He's free to go get a job. He's free to do his job.”

Muschamp was fired after four topsy turvy seasons in Gainesville, and Florida is on the hook for nearly $6.3 million. Auburn made Muschamp the highest-paid defensive coordinator in the country, but Florida did not receive any relief in the buyout due to zero mitigation in Muschamp’s contract.  

“Will didn’t work at all and we’re still paying him the same amount of money,” Foley said. 

“That’s the world we live in. This is the big leagues. These coaches have a tough job, these coaches are in demand. When you’re negotiating contracts with them. I’m not really worried about that. I also expected Will coach here a long, long time. I certainly expect Mac to be here a long, long time.”

Instead of focusing on fans’ frustrations, Foley acknowledged coach Jim McElwain’s successful inaugural class. 

“I imagine Auburn was recruiting some of those guys before he got up there. And Will's a good recruiter,” Foley said. 

“But so is Jim McElwain. Look what he did on signing day, look at what he did a couple of day prior to signing day. We’re all fine. I get, like I said, it’s good conversation, it’s angst, but, you know, we terminated Will’s contract. He’s free to go make a living like anybody else.”

Florida finished No. 21 nationally in team rankings after sitting in the 70’s a week before NSD.

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December 02, 2014

Florida's next head coach?

GAINESVILLE -- Four years ago, Jeremy Foley lured a former Nick Saban disciple to Florida, hoping to replicate Alabama’s football juggernaut.

It didn’t work, but UF’s athletic director is courting another coach with a Saban pedigree, interviewing Colorado State’s Jim McElwain on Tuesday afternoon, per multiple reports.

According to FlightAware.com, a private jet owned by a Florida booster left Jacksonville early Tuesday morning, picking up Foley in Gainesville and flying to Joplin, Mo., for a brief stop. The flight then landed in Fort Collins-Loveland Municipal airport in Colorado.

The website OnlyGators.com first reported the flight plan.

McElwain, 52, was named the Mountain West Conference coach of the year Tuesday, rapidly turning around a perennial bottom-feeder in three seasons at CSU.

The Rams were 3-9 for three consecutive years before McElwain took over in 2012.

He’s 22-16 at CSU, including 10-2 this season with wins over Power Five schools Colorado and Boston College.

Following four years of offensive futility at Florida, Foley aimed to hire a coach “with a track record” of offensive acumen.

McElwain fits the bill. 

He won a pair of national titles as the Crimson Tide’s offensive coordinator from 2008-2011, and this season, CSU averaged 35.9 points a game, ranking seventh nationally in third down efficiency (51 percent) and passing (323.6 ypg).

Senior quarterback Garrett Grayson is third in the country in passer rating, boasting 32 touchdowns to just six interceptions. Meanwhile, wideout Rashard Higgins, a Biletnikoff Award finalist, leads in the country in receiving yards (1,640) and touchdowns (17).

Since 2013, CSU has scored 30+ points in 17 games. The Gators managed such a feat just 16 times in four seasons under Muschamp.

After a flurry of rumors over the weekend, Florida zeroed in on McElwain when Mississippi coach Hugh Freeze signed a four-year contract extension Monday, removing a potential target from the mix.

Foley turned his focus to McElwain, flying to personally interview and potentially offer the job Tuesday afternoon. 

McElwain signed a five-year contract extension with CSU in August, with an annual base salary at $1.5 million and a $7.5 million buyout.

According to McElwain’s contract, the buyout is negotiable with “extenuating circumstances,” meaning Florida could pay the sum in whole or agree to a neutral-site contest to cover the cost.

If hired, McElwain aims to “retain” UF defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin and defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson, esteemed defensive coaches and a pair of outstanding recruiters, per multiple reports.

Despite his SEC experience, McElwain is a Western native, born in Montana. He played quarterback for Eastern Washington (1980-83), and coached QBs and receivers at his alma mater from 1987-1994.

He was an assistant for 15 years in the Big Sky Conference before jumping to bigger jobs, including Louisville (2000-02), Michigan State (2003-05), the NFL’s Oakland Raiders (2006), Fresno State (2007) and then Alabama. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

November 16, 2014

The Hot List: Where do Gators go next?

GAINEVILLE -- Will Muschamp -- Florida’s supposed prodigal son -- was fired resigned Sunday, effective at the end of the regular season.

Esteemed athletics director Jeremy Foley will open a search immediately, tacitly pursuing candidates under radio silence.

Florida is a Top 5 job -- rich athletic department, fertile recruiting base, solid roster foundation -- but the program’s systemic issues -- average facilities, substandard support staff, fickle fan base -- are real.

Unless Bob Stoops up and leaves Oklahoma, Foley isn’t hiring a defensive coach.

The Gators will target an experienced, offensive-minded coach, one that hopefully has Southeast ties and a solid recruiting background.

But the search to fill Muschamp’s vacancy won’t be easy. A potential list of who’s who candidates can be crossed off from the start.

Steve Spurrier, Dan Quinn, Charlie Strong, Art Briles, James Franklin, Gus Malzahn, Kevin Sumlin and Chad Morris will not be Florida’s next head coach.

Pipe-dream hires such as Chip Kelly or Jim Harbaugh are also unlikely, and thus, Foley’s job is extremely difficult.

Intriguing options remain, but few offer a perfect fit for UF.

Florida is sure to gauge the interest of Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze, Arizona’s Rich Rodriguez, Arizona State’s Todd Graham, UCLA’s Jim Mora and Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy.

Notably absent: Dan Mullen. Mississippi State’s coach is probably the hottest candidate on the market, but the former UF offensive coordinator reportedly has a sour relationship with Foley and may not even receive as much as a phone call.

Long-shots options include Colorado State’s Jim McElwain, Mike Shanahan or TCU’s Gary Patterson.

In the end, plenty of coaches will receive raises thanks to Florida’s interest, but make no mistake, Foley is under immense pressure to hit a home run.

The real question: Is there one out there?

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton

October 14, 2014

SEC commissioner Mike Slive to retire July 2015

GAINESVILLE -- Due to a recurrence of prostate cancer, Mike Slive will retire as SEC Commissioner on July, 31, 2015, the conference announced Tuesday.

Slive -- the league’s commissioner since 2002 -- leaves a historic legacy as the architect of the nation's most dominant conference. 

During 74-year-old’s 13-year tenure -- the SEC’s “golden age” -- the conference won seven straight BCS national times, 60 additional national championships, expanded into Texas and Missouri, launched an unprecedented TV network and increased revenues by record numbers.

“Mike possesses all of the qualities of a great leader – visionary, consensus builder, integrity, intuition and commitment, but more than anything he is a great friend to so many of us in this league,’’ said UF athletic director Jeremy Foley to Gatorzone.com.

“He’s led this conference to historical milestones during his tenure and the impact he’s had on collegiate athletics management and structure will be felt for many years. I look forward to working with him during his final year and in his future role as a consultant to the league.”

According to the release, Slive’s medical prognosis is “good,” and he will serve as a consultant for four years following his retirement. 

"I have been blessed in more ways than I can count and I will have as much passion for this job on my last day as I did on my first," Slive said.

"I consider my health situation a temporary detour in a remarkable road that has allowed me to meet amazing people, experience incredible events and celebrate historic victories. I will relish my final year in this position and look forward to being the biggest fan of the SEC for many years to come."

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReSimonton


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