What a difference two years can make. After six seasons that included a first ever appearance in the national championship game and a .617 winning percentage, The Pat McMahon Era is officially over at the University of Florida.
Citing an overall lack of consistency and a lack of confidence in the direction of the Gators baseball program, Florida Athletics Director Jeremy Foley dismissed McMahon and his assistant coaches and said that he will immediately begin a search for the man to take charge of the Gators program.
Speculation over McMahon’s job security has been a hot topic since early in the 2007 campaign. Understandably, the disappointment over a 2006 season in which Florida entered the polls as the top baseball team in the country ran deep.
The Gators returned several key starters and won seven of their first eight games, including a sweep of arch-rival Miami at Mark Light Stadium. However, they followed that by dropping nine of 11 games. Conference play didn’t get any easier either- Florida won only the first (Arkansas) and final (LSU) three game series, while dropping eight in a row. No Southeastern Conference Tournament opportunity. No NCAA Tournament bid extended.
This past season was only slightly better, because the expectations were so low and the Gators did make the conference tournament. But, once again they failed to secure a bid to the all-important 64 team tournament and that lack of progress certainly didn’t help.
“I made a decision to make a change in the direction of our head men’s baseball coaching position,” Foley said in his opening statement. “It was a decision that was made because I just don’t think that our baseball program is going to get where I think it can go and needs to go under the current leadership. It’s not due to a lack of effort. It’s not due to a lack of working extremely hard and trying to make it happen. I just don’t think that it was happening. I think that this baseball program can be a major factor on the national scene on a consistent basis.”
“More than anything else, I was looking for consistency in our baseball program and we have not achieved that through the years. That’s something else that I have got to accept responsibility for and as we go through this search process we’ll evaluate how were doing it and who were talking to. It’s a difficult day for us at the University of Florida.”
“Again, I just didn’t think that it was working and at the end of the day that’s a call that we have to make. When you lose confidence in a situation, once you’ve lost confidence, it’s hard to get it back. I just don’t believe that as I analyzed our baseball program and where it is today that I had the confidence that was going to change without making the changes we just made.”
McMahon did not attend the press conference. He was unavailable for comment on the situation. However, he did issue a statement through the UF Sports Information.
“It is with great regret that I issue this statement,” McMahon said. “Our athletics director has decided to move our baseball program in a different direction. I am extremely disappointed. I know in my heart that I have given every fiber of my body to run all areas of the program in a first-class manner with the highest principals. I want to thank all of our players, T.P., Ross and Don, J.B., Steve, John, Lisa, Ann, Edmund, all of our former gator players, members of the Gator Dugout Club, all of our loyal fans, the Gainesville community, and The Gator Nation.”
During McMahon’s first four seasons at the helm, Florida amassed a 174-85 (.617) overall record. His Southeastern Conference mark of 70- 49-1 (.583) included a pair of 20 win seasons. The Gators finished second in the Eastern Division twice and easily won the race in 2005.
However, the Gators struggled through the past two seasons without earning an NCAA Tournament berth. In fact, Florida’s overall record during that span was a disappointing 57-58 (.495). Their SEC mark of 25-35 (.416) included a last place finish in the Eastern Division in 2006.