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UF soccer coach Becky Burleigh retiring at season's end

Special to Gatorsports.com
Florida soccer coach Becky Burleigh announced she is retiring from coaching at the conclusion of the spring season.
UF soccer coach Becky Burleigh, who announced her retirement Saturday, had her teams consistently challenge for national and Southeastern Conference titles. Florida’s 14 team titles leads the SEC and the program earned NCAA Tournament berths 22 of the last 25 seasons.

The woman who started the Gator soccer program revealed Saturday she’s stepping away.

Becky Burleigh, 53, announced she is retiring from coaching at the conclusion of the University of Florida’s 2021 spring season. She made the announcement to the team following Saturday's practice. This is her 26th season as the Gators’ head coach.

“After spending most of my adult life as Florida’s soccer coach, I’m retiring from coaching at the conclusion of this season,” Burleigh said in a UF release. “It’s been something I’ve been debating for quite a while. Once I finalized my decision, I felt compelled to share it with the team and our prospective student-athletes rather than wait until the season’s conclusion.

"Although my future plans are a bit uncertain, I do plan to stay in Gainesville and devote more of my time to What Drives Winning, which has been a passion project of mine for some time."

Florida (2-7-1) resumes the second half of the COVID-adjusted schedule Feb. 19 with a home match vs. Florida Atlantic.

“But right now, my main focus is getting the team ready for spring 2021 play," Burleigh said. "I’m confident (UF Athletic Director) Scott Stricklin and his staff will find an amazing coach to lead this program because the current and former players have made this a very attractive position” she continued. “It’s been such a privilege to be a member of this program and the Gator Nation for the last 27 years.”

Synonymous with the program she took from start to NCAA champions in four seasons, Burleigh’s teams consistently challenged for national and Southeastern Conference titles. Florida’s 14 team titles leads the SEC and the program earned NCAA Tournament berths 22 of the last 25 seasons.

“Becky Burleigh has set an incredible standard for excellence in leading the Gators soccer program from its infancy," Stricklin said in the release. "She has placed Florida soccer amongst the nation’s leaders in her 26 seasons. All of that is due to her efforts and those of all the young women she led for the orange and blue.”

Over the course of the program’s history, Florida soccer has:

• 22 NCAA Championships’ berths (1996-2001; 2003-2017; 2019)

•Two NCAA College Cup appearances (1998, 2001), winning 1998 NCAA title

• 14 SEC team titles (1996-2001; 2006-2010; 2012-13, 2015)

•12 SEC Tournament titles (1996-01; 2004; 2007, 2010, 2012, 2015-16)

Florida’s 22 overall NCAA appearances is 12th among Division I programs. Among the top-15 teams in NCAA appearances, Florida is the youngest (25 seasons).

The 1998 NSCAA/adidas National Coach of the Year after leading the four-year old Gator soccer program to that season’s national title, Burleigh also was tabbed as the SEC Coach of the Year five times (2012, 2010, 2008, 2000 & 1996). Twenty-two Gators claimed 37 United Soccer Coaches All-America honors and Danielle Fotopoulos was the 1998 Honda Award winner as national player of the year. SEC Player of the Year accolades have been claimed by 11 players 15 times.

In 31 seasons of coaching which includes five seasons at Berry in Georgia, Burleigh entered the 2020-21 season with 507 wins, placing her No. 2 among active Division I coaches and No. 3 D1 all-time for career victories. Her 26 wins in 1998 marks a career high in single-season wins.

Florida head coach Becky Burleigh at the Champions Club at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville in this 2018 photo.