Foley no stranger to UF's newest sport


Published: Friday, February 19, 2010 at 7:26 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 19, 2010 at 7:26 p.m.

A dream has become reality for Jeremy Foley.

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Florida's athletic director Jeremy Foley at the Florida vs. LSU football game in 2006.

Alexander Cohn/The Gainesville Sun

Florida's athletic director had only a vision when he chose women's lacrosse as the Gators' 21st varsity sport on June 14, 2006. Actually Foley was not entirely familiar with the sport at first despite his men's lacrosse playing days at Hobart College in the early 1970s. The men's version of the game varies in terms of its rules and physicality. So Foley did some research, going to the Final Four in Boston in May 2006 to watch the sport at its highest level.

"The women's game is totally different," Foley said. "I sat at the Final Four next to this poor young woman from Massachusetts who was at the event, and for two hours I just asked her every question in the book. She just wanted to watch the game."

The sport made a solid first impression on Foley.

"I was blown away by the speed, the athleticism, the skill, the excitement," Foley said. "Trust me it's all there."

Foley immediately got behind the sport. He offered a job to Amanda O'Leary, who had 14 years of head coaching experience at Yale and a Hall of Fame playing background.

O'Leary jumped at the opportunity, accepting what she calls "a dream job."

"This is something you aspire to your entire career," O'Leary said.

Foley was just as excited to have O'Leary on his staff.

"Her career represents everything we want for our lacrosse program," Foley said. "She's a Hall of Fame lacrosse player, she won a national championship when she was in college (at Temple), her winning percentage is over .700 percent. She's a winner."

The first step was planning a stadium for Florida's newest sport. Three years later the end result was Donald R. Dizney Stadium, a $15 million, privately funded facility that houses a 1,500-seat lacrosse stadium, practice field, locker room, training room and conference room, as well as another practice field for Becky Burleigh's soccer team.

"I think (the stadium) helps Mandee recruit," Foley said. "I think it helps quality student athletes say, 'Hey, you know the University of Florida is serious about this' because I think that's what it takes."

The Gators' inaugural class has taken notice of a stadium that O'Leary calls "the No. 1 lacrosse facility in the country, by far."

"We all committed here without even a facility or seeing anything," freshman Janine Hillier said. "Jeremy Foley — the athletic director — promised us when we all committed here that you're going to get the finest of the finest and the best of the best facilities ... and he delivered."

Foley expects the fast-growing, popular Northeastern sport to catch on soon within the Gator Nation.

"(Fans) like to see scoring, they like to see winners, they like to see excitement, they like to see athleticism, and you're going to see that in women's lacrosse," Foley said.

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