Former Arizona coach Tony Amato takes the reigns of Florida Gators soccer

Photo via the Gainesville Sports Commission

Following a 2-0 shutout over the Miami Hurricanes on April 3, former head coach Becky Burleigh said her final goodbyes to the Florida program she helped develop back in 1995.

A search for the new leader of the Gators locker room began immediately. But, how does one find a proper substitute for a legendary name in the University of Florida and the only coach in program history?

UF athletic director Scott Stricklin believes he’s found the answer in former Arizona head coach Tony Amato.

“If you look not only at what he’s done, but what those programs were doing before he got there,” Stricklin explained, “obviously, you can see a definitive trend line from the day he showed up to what happened afterward — and it’s consistent.”

Amato is on his way to Gainesville after his contract with Arizona expired and carries an impressive resume under his arm.

Last season, Amato became the all-time winningest coach in Arizona Wildcat history with a 88-53-37 overall record, five appearances in the NCAA tournament and a trip to the Sweet 16.

Amato does face a familiar challenge though: turning around a program that’s fresh off a losing season.

In 2020-2021, the Gators posted a 6-8-3 record while slipping to a four-game losing skid in the month of October. Florida was able to topple No. 15 Alabama on Oct. 4 but fell to clubs such as No. 11 South Carolina and unranked Missouri.

Stricklin believes that Amato can turn around Florida and get back to their winning ways. He also remarks how the coach did it more than once.

“He did it at three different schools, at three different levels, and [most recently] at a place that was really struggling in the toughest soccer league in the country,” he said, “He put them in position to be a regular postseason team.”

Although the experience is there, any new setting for a head coach can be a challenge especially with the high expectations of the SEC.

Amato hasn’t slipped on a Gators shirt yet, but he’s on his way to take the wheel and lead Florida back to the elite status that it hasn’t held in quite some time.

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