UF will move quickly, Machen says

University of Florida president Bernie Machen.

TRACY WILCOX/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Friday, June 1, 2007 at 1:09 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, June 1, 2007 at 1:09 p.m.

SANDESTIN Florida president Bernie Machen's football playoff proposal was the big news entering the SEC spring meetings. It became almost an afterthought when the stunning news of Billy Donovan's departure reached Northwest Florida early Thursday afternoon.

"This happened very fast," Machen said Friday. "I think Billy was surprised by it and we're surprised by it. We were not expecting it. In fact, we were going to announce his new contract Monday afternoon."

Instead, Machen and Florida Athletics Director Jeremy Foley will find themselves in the middle of a coaching search.

Machen said UF could have a replacement for Donovan in a matter of days.

"As soon as possible," he said. "If you think about it, this is a very difficult time to make a coaching change. I know Jeremy and I have already identified how we're going to do it. There's a process to make sure you do it the right way. It's going to happen as quickly as we can."

Machen would not discuss possible candidates.

"Unless Mike Krzyzewski is movable, we're going to go down the line a little bit," he said. "Because of Billy and Jeremy, we have a great situation, other than the fact some other school is going to lose a coach. It's not right, really, but that's the way it works."

Machen said he feels sad that Donovan is leaving, but he's happy for Donovan and the opportunity he has with the Magic.

"I think we need to keep in mind what we've had here," he said. "We've had an incredible 11 years with Billy Donovan. He's taken Florida to a new level that we'll never go back from. Florida is a better place because of Billy.

"We feel like he's still a Gator. The Gator Nation is hurting today, but I think when they get a little perspective on all Billy did for them, everything will be all right."

Machen sent a letter to UF alumni Friday afternoon in which he expressed his gratitude for all Donovan has done and asked Gator fans to wish Donovan and his family good luck.

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