Foley ready to work quickly and quietly

University of Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley speaks during a press conference on Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2010 to announce that head football coach Urban Meyer will resign. Meyer's last game will be on Jan. 1, 2011 against Penn State in the Outback Bowl.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 8, 2010 at 11:23 p.m.

If all goes according to plan, the Florida Gators will have a new football coach in place by Christmas.

It's a relatively short time, but between now and then, Jeremy Foley has a lot of work and research to do to find the right man.

A coaching legend has left unexpectedly, and Foley has the daunting challenge of finding a replacement — and he has to do it rather quickly because recruiting waits for no athletic director who is without a coach.

The Florida athletic director has been in this situation before. It happened the first time when Steve Spurrier stunned Foley and everyone else with his resignation the day after the Gators played in the Orange Bowl following the 2001 season.

Foley ended up hiring Ron Zook, and three years later found himself in another coaching search that led to the hiring of Urban Meyer. The Gators would go on to win two national titles, and Meyer made many forget Spurrier (and the questionable Zook hire).

Going into his third high-profile coaching search, Foley said he is much better prepared than he was back in the first few weeks of 2002.

"This is the third time I've been through this process, and I understand the intense interest it generates," Foley said. "It's good. It says a lot about Florida. We'll be getting into developing candidates. We know the expectations here. We have the same expectations. We know the type of job it is, we know the challenge. We look forward to moving ahead very quickly."

Foley said he hopes to have a new coach in place in two to two-and-a-half weeks.

Although some Internet sites have reported that Foley has already contacted some candidates, and actually offered the job to one, Foley said Wednesday night he has yet to contact any potential candidates.

Foley said he will not be answering questions about rumors or conducting the search through the media.

"It's hard to comment about searches publicly because they can change every single day," Foley said. "I cannot respond to every single rumor. I've got text messages already that we've already offered the job to somebody and hired somebody. That's just stuff. That just hasn't happened."

Foley said he and members of his staff will compile a list of candidates (starting today) and then Foley will have face-to-face meetings with the coaches over the next two weeks.

"You have to get in front of them and find out if they are a fit for this institution, this program, this community," Foley said. "And, likewise, are we a fit for them? Sometimes people think deals are cut in a back room. It has to happen face to face.

"We have to hire the right person. Given the job Urban has done with this program, I think there will be a large number of candidates. We're moving forward on that."

Several names have already emerged as potential top candidates, including Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen (the former Meyer offensive coordinator at Florida who had a close relationship with Tim Tebow), Houston coach Kevin Sumlin, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops (the UF defensive coordinator under Spurrier from 1996-98), Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh, TCU coach Gary Patterson and former Meyer defensive coordinator Charlie Strong, who is in his first year as the head coach at Louisville.

“No one has contacted me and I'm fine with that,” Mullen said in a telephone interview with the New York Times while on a recruiting visit in Pompano Beach, Fla. “I'm very happy at Mississippi State.”

In his previous searches, Foley said it was a prerequisite that the new coach have head coaching experience. He said that will not necessarily be the case in this search.

Foley has been in this position before — and he's ready to go through the process that will lead him to the Gators' next head coach.

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