Jeremy Foley is widely considered one of, if not the, best Athletic Directors in the country. Under Foley, Florida has ranked first in the SEC All-Sports Trophy rankings 21 out of the last 22 years, has ranked in the top-5 of the National All-Sports rankings 15 out of the last 22 years, has 23 NCAA Team Championship’s and 118 SEC Championship’s to his credit since 1991.
However, one team’s success is not listed in those 118 SEC Championships – the University of Florida Women’s Lacrosse team – a team that has been one of the Gators most consistent teams over the past four years, and a team that has just won another conference tournament championship with a 9-8 win over Northwestern.
Founded in 2010, the Gators lacrosse program immediately burst onto the scene and has amassed an 80-19 record, including a 70-11 record over the past four seasons. Over those same past four seasons, the Gators have a 20-1 record in the American Lacrosse Conference and has won (or shared) the conference regular season title and has won the tournament championship twice (2012, 2014).
A former college lacrosse player at Hobart College in New York, Foley has made the building and maintained success of the lacrosse program a top priority. The Gators built a $15 million lacrosse stadium/facility that is amongst the best in the country; hired Amanda O’Leary former head coach at Yale University (162-65 in career as coach at Yale) and a member of the Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 2007, and finally, spent the necessary recruiting dollars to recruit some of the best lacrosse recruitment classes in the country over the past five years, which has included numerous number one overall classes.
Although the Gators did numerous feasibility studies, had multiple Title IX compliance committee meetings (which I was fortunate enough to serve on for two years), and had the financial support from multiple donors, notably Donald R. Dizney, it was still a risk for Foley to build and try to support a lacrosse program. Although lacrosse is growing in popularity in the south, the Gators are only one two schools in the traditional Southeastern Conference to have a lacrosse team (Vanderbilt University), and is only one of two schools in Florida to have a team (Jacksonville University is the other). A sign of the level of talent in Florida, compared to the rest of the country, is evident in the roster – where 25 of the 28 players are from out of state.
While tremendous credit is owed to O’Leary and the players she has recruited, much of the success lies on the decisions that Foley made as the Athletic Director. When players were being recruited to Florida, they were able to see the commitment the University was providing in giving them their own facility; they could see the commitment in dollars to provide state of the art commitment; and they could see the embrace from the university athletic community. Further, Foley chose to enter the Gators into the American Lacrosse Conference, rather than running to an easier conference. The ALC features seven-time National Champion Northwestern University and currently has five teams ranked in the top-20. This move was in-line with Jeremy Foley’s mantra of, “If you want to be the best, you have to play the best.”
The meteoric rise and maintained success of the lacrosse program does not lie solely in Jeremy Foley, but his eye for the right coach, his desire to provide the right facility, his ability to raise the funding, his support of recruiting the right players, and his desire to win are all staple’s in the Jeremy Foley playbook of successful leadership as the Athletic Director at the University of Florida.
That is no more evident than in the Florida Gators lacrosse program.