Dooley: Memorable decade for UF athletics

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Florida coach Dan Mullen, right, talks with UF Athletic Director Scott Stricklin, left, earlier this month at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Matt Pendleton/Correspondent]
This was an odd decade, uneven and erratic in the two biggest sports around here, celebratory and euphoric in some of the others.
Heaven knows there was plenty to write about.
There were unforgettable personalities like Bridget Sloan, Brady Singer and Patric Young, and others you’d like to forget (fill in your own blanks).
There were moments where your goosebumps felt like they were going to take over your whole body and others that made you alternate between morose and throw-something-at-the-flat-screen angry.
It was dominated by football, because all decades around here are dominated by football. And recently, the decades have also been filled with national championships.
There, it did not disappoint.
So here is my latest list, the 10 top stories of a crazy decade. Feel free to disagree.
1. Revolving football coaches
This was THE story of the last 10 years. We went through the Urban Meyer drama for the second time to start the decade, then moved on to see Will Muschamp do what we never thought could be done (4-8 and losing to Georgia Southern).
Oh, it got better.
Muschamp was replaced by Jim McElwain, who didn’t play the room very well, but won two division titles and then got canned for claiming he was receiving death threats. It had nothing to do with a shark.
The lack of stability at the head coaching spot was a big reason Florida fans rode the super roller coaster for most of the 2010s. But out of this insanity came Dan Mullen and 20 wins (possible 21) in two seasons and a sense that everything is going to be all right.
2. Finally, they were champs
Kevin O’Sullivan gave Florida baseball exactly what it needed in that he was always taking his teams deep into the postseason with a chance to win it all.
Finally, it clicked.
A gutsy call by O’Sullivan in the finals to use up his pitching with a possible game still to play paid off. That Florida beat rival LSU in the final made it all that much more sweet to Florida fans who finally got to celebrate a national title.
3. Billy D says bye
This time, he meant it.
After leaving Florida once and making an abrupt U-turn back to the Gators, Billy Donovan decided it was time to try the NBA.
He accepted a job with the Oklahoma City Thunder and left as the greatest coach in Florida history.
It was sad to see him go, but he left behind a legacy that will never be forgotten (and he will have a court with his name on it).
4. Back-to-back beauties
Florida kept knocking on the door in Oklahoma City before a player who would draw comparisons to Babe Ruth took the Gators on an amazing two-year run.
Lauren Haeger was imposing in the circle and at the plate as she helped Florida win back-to-back softball national titles.
But these were complete teams coach Tim Walton put together which relied on defense and a complete pitching staff.
5. Jeremy leaves, Stricklin enters
After guiding Florida athletics to more glory than anyone thought possible, athletic director Jeremy Foley retired.
It was a surprise, but Foley felt like Florida athletics were in the perfect spot for him to step away.
Talk about a legacy, Florida’s lofty positions in the all-sports awards in the conference and nationally began to be taken for granted.
After a lengthy search, Foley was replaced by Scott Stricklin, the AD at Mississippi State, who brought a new set of eyes to the job with an emphasis on facilities.
6. Unlikely Final Four
The team was hardly loaded with a bunch of NBA players, but the 2013-14 Florida basketball team had one of the most special seasons ever.
Led by four seniors, the Gators had a knack for finding different ways to win games. And win and win and win.
Florida won 30 consecutive games and looking back you can’t help but pinch yourself to believe that really happened.
The Gators were the first team to go 18-0 in the conference, blowing out Kentucky at home on Senior Day. Then they beat Kentucky to win the SEC Tournament.
And then there was their NCAA Tournament, two wins in Orlando and two more in Memphis to reach the Final Four in Dallas. It was some run.
7. Mouse and the Gang
We all appreciate all of the national championships that Florida won this decade, but if I list them all individually the top 10 is done.
For example, coach Mike Holloway had a pretty decent decade — nine NCAA titles for UF’s men indoors and outdoors, the ninth coming this year.
Roland Thornqvist and his women’s tennis team won three NCAA crowns. Women’s swimming and diving started out the decade with one.
Rhonda Faehn won three in a row as the UF gymnastics coach. Throw in the already-mentioned baseball and softball and that’s 19 national titles for the decade.
That’s the most in any 10-year stretch in school history. Not too shabby.
8. The hurricane game
It’s a shame this was as big a story as it was with sniping from the media and LSU administrators and the league office having to get involved when the two sides couldn’t agree on anything.
Florida was supposed to play LSU in Gainesville in October of 2016, but Hurricane Matthew was storming up the east coast and UF was told there would be no law enforcement or emergency support for the game.
Those are facts.
It turned out to be a lovely day in Gainesville, but the game had already been postponed. LSU accused Florida of ducking the game. Florida did not like that.
And then the Gators went to Baton Rouge and won on a last-play stop at the goal line to capture the SEC East.
Some stories just write themselves.
9. The return of the HBC
It was always a weird deal for Gator fans, seeing one of their heroes coming into the stadium he named every other year trying to beat their pants off.
But when Steve Spurrier decided to hang it up in midseason at South Carolina, Florida was quick to get him back into the fold.
He was given a new title — “Head Ball Consultant” — and an office on the third floor.
UF named the field after him in a moving ceremony and he continues to be a goodwill ambassador for the school. This was an important part of this decade for all Gators.
10. As the quarterback turns
The drama at the position was a defining story of the decade that started with John Brantley running the option and ended with an unlikely hero.
Tim Tebow’s final game was actually on the first day of this decade in the Sugar Bowl. What followed was a real potpourri of drama.
The quarterback position at UF is always newsworthy, but this decade seemed to take us to new levels.
Whether it was Will Grier’s suspension or Feleipe Franks’ antics or Florida starting a walk-on or injuries, the common thing was that Florida could not find a quarterback.
Then came Kyle Trask, who saved the day at Kentucky, then started his first game since his freshman year of high school. All he did was get Florida to the Orange Bowl and a 10-2 record without a running game.
Not a bad way to end a decade.
— Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

56 COMMENTS

  1. Here’s a question for the peanut gallery on #5, Jeremy Foley’s AD legacy: Who, besides me, would happily trade all those natties in baseball, softball, volleyball and tiddlywinks during the past decade for continued superiority and maybe another natty in football?

    “Florida’s lofty positions in the all-sports awards in the conference and nationally” during the past decade were “nice,” BUT not at the price paid by Gator Nation in enduring ten long years of mediocre football just because our AD believed university “resources” were better “invested” in all those second banana sports. Thankfully, the man decided to retire and replace himself with an AD that understands that without a top-notch football program, success in all the other varsity sports is irrelevant at UF and in the SEC.

    • Count me in as a charter member of the peanut gallery and a lifelong member of SWINE (Seniors Wildly Indignant about Nearly Everything).

      It was Foley’s vision, which strikes one as somewhat akin to radical egalitarian versus trusting free markets to lift all boats, but it did cost a couple of actually great football coaches along the way and at least one who might have been better but for the conflicts Foley was at the root of (and certainly, in all fairness, due to the way that particular coach’s personality liabilities interacted with same). I suppose we should probably call it the “Lost Decade of Florida Football”. I just hope we never repeat it.

      • “Lost Decade of Florida Football” has an appropriate ring to what happened at UF over the last ten years.

        I cannot overemphasize that our lost decade of mediocre football began when Urban Meyer was reduced to an emotional meltdown after witnessing what the Saban machine did to his team, knowing full well he was losing Tim Terrific and his posse and had ALREADY lost his replacement Cam Newton and his posse to other SEC and ACC schools that didn’t drink the “egalitarian sports program” Kool Aid. It effectively ended the day Foley retired and named Scott Stricklin as his replacement.

        It’s also important to highlight that Scott Stricklin has NOT diminished “investment” in other varsity sports. He just restored football to its proper place at the top of the university sports pyramid. Without success in football all the success of the other Gator sports programs is IRRELEVANT!!!

    • Nah. Wouldn’t trade the baseball title simply for a few more top 10 football finishes. Foley understood that football is important, but unfortunately he made mistakes. However, who can say they knew Muschamp was a mistake the day he was announced? Certainly not me. He was the Texas “head coach-in-waiting”, after all.

      Stricklin is loved now, because he brought us Mullen, and things are going in the right direction. I’m confident things will change, but even with Mullen, there’s still not so much as a division title. And yet, here’s to changing that in the new decade. Go Gators!!!

        • Correction: If you knew Joe Shiver, buddy, you’d also know that he lives and breaths Gator football no doubt more than just about anybody on this forum, past, present, or future tense. He just has more varied interests than most, and like you, isn’t afraid to stake out a position and stand by it.

        • No problem, Caw. You have a right to be wrong, and let me say you exercise it very well. I’d like to see championship football, too, but the idea that the Gators haven’t excelled at football because too many resources have been diverted to other sports is just ignorant.

          Dan the Man is pulling down $6 million a year and will almost certainly get an extension and raise soon. That’s a significant investment, and the football facility is coming soon. Sit tight; it’ll come.

      • Joe,
        Beautiful post. LOVE IT.

        Foley “Haters,” aka Theeee Negative Nancies,

        There’s a school up northwest that pretty much does what you asked for. They only started having men come to their school because they were trying to recruit more women to their all girls school. (I am Just having a little fun there, Mom’s a graduate)

        How many Football NCs do they have….mmmhhh…the same as us.

        As for…. “building facilities” is such a asinine point as far getting to the promise land…and a team winning a NC. It’s always the coaches’ that can motivate the kids and their parents to want to go there.

        Alabama is a dynasty but Nick Satan didn’t win titles right away he won the recruiting battles…. 3 years of top classes…what do you know a few NC.

        Clemson didn’t buy as much as a new Outhouse…. Dabo is a recruiter, so good that his team has had several number 1 classes, facilities came after the NCs and (beating Satan 2 times in those. : I don’t hate Satan I think he’s funny.)

        (I just remembered while reading the above)……did Bobby Bowden have new facilitates when he started winning? No he recruited.

        Only College to win Basketball (until 2 years ago had a rich high school’s gym as their home, not really that much still) baseball (just now building one) and football……in a ten year span to WIN NC in the major 3 Sports.

        Not to mention the Gatas track and swimming sports teams…throwing Olympians out like toilet paper.

        I would wager that you are proud of your school making that happen… representing “our” country.

        I’ll take these as any day.

          • Damn, bud — why don’t you go for a jog and motor off some of that vitriol, instead of slinging it around on here just because others don’t see it your way? Like I said before, there’s a place at the table for you, but you’re sure wearing your welcome pretty thin with comments like that. You’ve got a couple of apologies to make pretty damn pronto, hoss — unless you see yourself as too big a man to do that.

          • Clemson had no such thing until they won. You just are not very smart and angry. Have your mama change your diapers that should help a little.

    • Not me. Despite hiring Mac. Foley was the best AD to ever AD.

      BEST
      EVER
      IN
      THE
      BUSINESS

      Yeah, I was a football bigot when I went to school (’87-’91) but not anymore. Prior to 1987, UF had exactly 9 NCAA championships in all sports. None in Football, None in Men’s Basketball, None in Baseball. Since 1992, Florida has won 32 NCAA Championships (6 post Foley) including three in Football two in Basketball and 1 in Baseball (post-Foley). Stricklin is carrying in fine form a legacy the Foley created. BEST EVER IN HISTORY.

  2. Worst decade ever of course foley lover pat Dooley has to write about how great this decade was because why ? We won at a bunch of sports no one cares about. WE WANT CHAMPIONSHIP FOOTBALL we won nothing this decade. No stand alone football complex not top football facilities terrible coaching hires ditching the spread offense and replacing billy donovan with a mediocre hire that will yield nothing more than a bunch of second round NCAA exits. But most of all the football was taken care of so poorly to think back in 2010 Clemson would someone surpass us in football win more national titles and steal our states best recruits was unfathomable but they did along with several other teams that invested heavily in facilities while life loser Jeremy foley said we would not get in a arms race or hire Mullen. Worst decade ever all doom and gloom nice puff piece though Dooley one more time WE WANT CHAMPIONSHIP FOOTBALL don’t care About baseball only thing they are good for is delaying the completion of our football complex that’s killing us in recruiting. Good day mr puff piece editorialist

    • Now THAT is an unvarnished, passionate comment if there ever was one.

      I’m glad, of course, when the Gators win and excel in other sports, although I don’t personally have much interest in them. Some of us just fuel our passions by Gator football and everything associated with it — and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

    • THElittlemanhoodclaw,

      I will give you the Mike White hire not sure why(maybe little man’s complex, something you are familiar with) insists on playing 3 guards especially when we are playing a team that plays 2-3 bigs at all time. And then of course always playing a motion Offense but letting Andrew Niemhard dribble the ball for the 1st 10-15 seconds of the clock.

  3. I am glad that Florida is great in the other sports. These student athletes earned scholarships in their sports and of course they are passionate about being Gators. I am always happy to see us doing well in any sport even if I don’t watch them. Foley did well in all of these sports but he was too hard headed and cheap when it came to football. The decade is ending on a good note with us in the Orange Bowl and a good recruiting class. It will be fun to see in 10 years what the sports decade will look like with the strength in the other sports and Mullen and company now in place in football. Go Gators!

  4. Hindsight is 20/20, but it’s refreshing to see Foley being called out for his inaction on football from 2010 until his departure. It was inexcusable then to be the last team in the SEC to have an indoor practice facility and it was inexcusable to let the football program decline to the level it did. After 2021, all will be even in facilities and we will see what CDM can bring to Florida. One does have to wonder if Gator fans will now keep in mind history, so we are not doomed to repeat it. In other words, from 2010 to 2017, our program was set back to the 70’s and 80’s (minus probation). Let’s not allow the UF Administration to let that happen again.

    • It’s not strictly hindsight. The signs were in the news from the day SOS quit on the Gators after wrapping up the 2001 season.

      SOS bleeds orange and blue, yet he took Snider’s millions and ran, claiming “ten years was enough” because he couldn’t convince Foley that the game was changing and the Gators needed to “invest” in better facilities and more recruiting staff, just to keep up. He knew it back then because he got an inside look at the resources Oklahoma “invested” on his buddy Stoopsy’s 2000 NC.

      What lesson did Foley draw from that experience? Hire an aggressive recruiter who wanted to be a Power 5 HBC and all will be well. That’s how we got Zooked! The guy could recruit, but he couldn’t coach them up.

      What lesson did Foley draw from that experience? Hire an aggressive recruiter who wanted to be a Power 5 coach AND also knew how to coach. That’s how we got Urban Meyer.

      Meyer did take the Gators back to the top of the mountain, twice, but burned out trying to keep up with the well funded recruiting machines at Oklahoma, Texas, LSU and finally Alabama. He was the next-to-last Power 5 coach to win a NC with a program that had inferior facilities and a small recruiting staff, but the stress of that effort forced him to bail out.

      What lesson did Foley draw from that experience? Hire another aggressive recruiter who wanted to be a Power 5 HBC. Starting to see a pattern here???

      BTW, can anyone name the LAST Power 5 HBC to win a NC with a program that had inferior facilities and a small recruiting staff???

  5. Contrary to how some Gator fans like to change the narrative, I’d like to give credit where credit is do.

    https://247sports.com/college/florida/Article/Florida-Gators-Football-unveils-planned-100-million-facility-upgrades-47504577/

    While Foley did not do much for Facilities until McElwain’s arrival, the above article points to the fact that Foley tried to make a strong push for facilities under McElwain’s tenure to put it on the right track before he retired.

    As much as the same fans want to change the narrative, I’d like to point out that it was under Stricklin who set football facilities back another several years, after he took over in favor shifting baseball and softball to left while shifting football to the right.

    https://247sports.com/Article/Gators-facilities-upgrades-not-quite-in-motion-yet-114654372/

    https://247sports.com/Article/Florida-Gators-Football-UF-new-baseball-stadium-stand-alone-football-facility-delayed-a-year-126277032/

        • Conservatives are perfectly fine as long as they care about others and aren’t crazy and extreme narcists.

          George Bush Jr wasn’t evil just dumb.

          Mit Romney is another good example.

          The best example of them all is Gov. Bill Weld, by far the most sane and intelligent conservatives in alllll of Governments local level to the federal and world level.

        • Don’t waste your vote on me. I’m neither conservative nor liberal so the sum of both parties (you do the math) would impeach me as soon as I’m sworn in. With that said, I think I would make a great president because my priority would be to do the right thing for the collective society rather than blind loyalty to a party and its platform.

          Our two-party system is broke. Our current politicians and judges are overwhelmingly made up of rich people and lawyers who are not experts in how to govern nor understand political science. They are great at making money, buying people, and making/interpreting laws to benefit certain niches rather than making good laws and serving justice that benefit the collective society. I better get off the soapbox before the sheriff shows up.

      • OK, just to plug myself, let me retract my doubts about women’s basketball, which ended the pre-conference schedule at 9-4.

        Interesting story. At UF, I ran for student Senate, because a fraternity brother was running for president and wanted to stack the roll with as many fraternity brothers as we could elect. Not wanting the job, but not wanting to get skunked, I voted for myself. I won by one vote.

          • Does he have a running mate yet? If not, I’ll volunteer tho not to be confused with a Tennessee Volunteer.

            If nominated, I will run on a split ticket — if we win, I’ll buy everybody who votes for us a banana split! As far as credentials, let me just say that I am a proud heterosexual and a Conservative, Christian Constitutionalist who is able to become flatulent on demand. I’ve often said, however, that I’m definitely a lesbian trapped in a man’s body — talk about flexibility, how much more could you ask for?

            I really want this job, as I hear it pays OK and is a good way to meet chicks! I expect a call at your earliest convenience.

          • See my post below. Thought I was replying directly to you. After giving it more thought, though, I’m not sure I can handle the pressure, and there could be some skeletons in my closet.

            Maybe we should vote for David!

  6. 6, you may be over qualified to be my running mate, but I gladly extend the invitation. Having now taken a cram-course in flatulence and flatus, I can tell you that my wife would readily nominate me as a world-class belcher. If you can handle the other end, it would seem we’ll have a perfectly complementary ticket.

    Alas, I’m not a Pi Kappa Phi. I’m a member of the agricultural fraternity, Alpha Gamma Rho, or Alpha Grabba Hoe, as the uncultured, citified yoots used to say.

    Now, all we need is a rallying cry. How ’bout, “Shiver For You and Gator-6, Too!”? I’m sure we should change the subject before the Post Police throw a flag for non-sports content. All hail!

    • I love it….very catchy. I can tell you would have made an excellent Pi Kap, had you been so inclined, on those belching credentials alone. My particular “gift” was at the game of Turtle, since I can hold my breath for so long. We did have a brother, however, that could actually belch out the national anthem, so you would have been in excellent company.

      I showed this post to Donna, her only comment being, “Ick, ick, ick…..Joe really IS your evil twin skippy”. So don’t discount the female vote, I have it on good authority that chicks secretly admire guys who are world class belchers. You can trust me on that, I used to be a doctor.

      PS — Donna refuses to play turtle with me since our honeymoon. Not my fault if she can’t hold her breath as long as I can!

      • That Donna’s a smart woman.

        Since David and Sly haven’t responded, l feel like we have a significant advantage, already having a full ticket and a slogan and whatnot.

        Now we need a platform. I’m leaning toward “Swamp Cabbage in Every Pot”, plus “A 40 Yard-line Seat with a Stool”.

        I’ll admit, this race has me under a lot of pressure. It’s all I do not to go all Calvin Coolidge on y’all. How did I ever let Sam talk me into this!?

        • I told ya’ Sam’s a slippery guy, pulling our strings from way over there in Turkey and laughing his butt off.

          I dunno, Joe……I’ll leave the slogans up to you. After all, I’m just the strap-hanger on this platform anyway and beginning to think about sending my application for Pope back to the Vatican one more time for reconsideration. I mean, true you might command GatorNation and all that — but man o’ man, do you have any idea how many Catholics there are? And that’s just the Romans…..throw in the Anglicans, a couple of the Orthodoxes and maybe the Copts and you got the Mormons outnumbered 2 to 1! And I’ll tell you what, old buddy — the first thing I’ll do is send Notre Dame to ’em. The Mormons, that is. Or else trade it for Marie Osmond, although she might be sort of high maintenance at that. Naw, they can just have it.

          Real possibilities here, Joe. Unless you can make me a better deal, of course.

          • Hey, you volunteered for this assignment. You can’t abandon me just because you didn’t anticipate the pressure cooker this thing would turn into.

            Now, I admit that pope is a lofty aspiration and Marie, having been transformed by Jenny Craig, WW, or whomever, is quite the looker, despite being older than me (I think). My campaign can offer no such booty, no pun intended. But I promise you, if you stick with me, we can make _______ great again! Not exactly sure what it is whereof we are running for the presidency (I think, again).

            Awww, who am I kidding?! We should both learn from my college experience and vote for Sly…or David…or Sly and David. I’m so confused!

          • Actually the plans have changed after reading Sly, Joe and you. Sly got me thinking iiiiiit’s 3rd Party Time!!! Remove all the junk out of the cupboard; old jelly, molded bread and cheese, separated peanut butter, 10 year old Cheese-its, etc. 6, Joe; Turkish food is really good but I just took the lead in the Fantastic, Fearsome, Flatulence, Foursome!!! Forget about the 3rd party I am The Fart King!!! All Hail The Fart King!!!