There’s a reason the University of Florida is known as the everything school. Aside from a top-10 ranking among the country’s public schools, Florida’s athletic achievements and rankings are second to none. But you already knew that.
Go down the list of sports and you’ll find a staggering amount of teams are also ranked among the top 10 in the country in 2019 — 10 of UF’s 19 varsity sports to be exact. While Dan Mullen’s first-year program turnaround or Kevin O’Sullivan’s constant dominance might receive the bulk of that national attention, it’s Florida’s plethora of successful women’s sports that deserve recognition.
So let’s step back for a minute and do that. After all, how many schools can say they have the same amount of women’s sports programs in the top 10 as they do the men’s?
Five UF women’s sports currently own that title. They include softball, gymnastics, golf, swimming and diving, and track and field. Volleyball finished just outside the top 10 at No. 11 and lacrosse is typically an elite program, but the team currently ranks 13th as the calendar turns to March.
The best of those is currently softball and gymnastics — both of which currently rank No. 3 overall. Then, there’s women’s golf, swimming and diving, and track and field, all of which come in at No. 8 among other programs.
Between those five sports alone, the Gators have won 10 national championships and, wait for it, 48 SEC championships. Even better, Six of those 10 national championships came in the last 10 years.
If you look at the picture broader you’ll see just how successful all of Florida’s women’s sports have been compared with UF’s men’s sports. The Gators have 40 total national championships, 20 of which are in women’s sports.
Just how has Florida been able to do this? You can start with former Athletic Director Jeremy Foley and his eye for coaching talent. Besides the obvious tremendous coaches in men’s sports like Urban Meyer (at the time) and Billy Donovan, he hired many more great ones.
There’s Becky Burleigh, who won Florida soccer’s first national title just four years after the program began. Tim Walton turned UF softball into an absolute powerhouse and national contender every year. And even though she wasn’t hired by Foley, you can’t forget Mary Wise, who has done the same with Florida volleyball despite not winning a title… yet.
Obviously, it helps to have great players and athletes, too. From soccer great Abby Wambach to swimming legend Dara Torres or gymnast Bridget Sloan, there have been no shortage of Gator olympians who helped make Florida athletics what it is today in Gainesville.
So Gator fans, be proud of your school. Be proud that it places such heavy emphasis on its women’s sports, because they matter just as much as the men’s.