Tanton on Lacrosse: Jeremy Foley, a Lacrosse Story


Jeremy Foley, the athletic director at Florida for 25 years before retiring in October, played lacrosse at Hobart and brought a women's team to Gainesville.

This is a lacrosse story.

It’s the story of a long ago non-descript player who was so determined to be successful that he rose to be one of the most prominent figures in all of intercollegiate athletics. His name is Jeremy Foley.

It begins with a phone call from the lacrosse coach at the Holderness School in Plymouth, N.H., to coach Jerry Schmidt at Hobart in 1970.

“Coach,” the Holderness man said. “You’re getting a boy who’s going to be your favorite player. His name is Jeremy Foley.”

“He was my favorite player,” Schmidt once told me, “but not because he was our best player. If he scored three goals in his four years I don’t remember them. But he was the first kid at practice every day. He was the last one to leave. He’d do anything that needed to be done, including collecting the stray lacrosse balls at the end of practice.”

Schmidt, as an attackman at Johns Hopkins, was not only an All-American but to this day is the only lacrosse player ever to make the cover of Sports Illustrated. That was in 1962. He was inducted in the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1983.

When Foley was graduating from Hobart in 1974, Schmidt asked him what he was going to do. Foley said he’d like to join the coaching staff there. He was told there was no budget for an extra lacrosse coach. Dave Urick was then the No. 2 man on the staff. Foley said he didn’t need money. He just wanted coaching experience. Schmidt OK’d it.

“Jeremy took a job at the school on the maintenance staff,” Schmidt said at the time. “I don’t know when he slept because he worked all night cleaning classrooms. But he was always there in the office in the morning at 8 o’clock to go to work. He went to practice every day. He did what coaches do – scouting and recruiting.”

After a year of that, Foley went to Ohio University and earned a masters degree in sports administration in 1976. That led to a modest position at the University of Florida as an intern in the ticket department.

Foley was on his way. He rose so quickly that at age 39 he became senior associate athletic director in 1992. For the past 25 years, he has been athletic director during a period in which Florida has enjoyed unmatched success. In 2006, the Gators became the first school ever to win the NCAA championship in both football and basketball. Basketball repeated in 2007. It was then that people began to say Foley was the best athletic director in the country.

Schmidt died in June 2004. The ceremony at Ocean Pines, Md., was like a coaches’ convention. Foley came up from Florida. Naturally, Urick was there. I asked Foley if he still follows lacrosse.

“I still look for the scores of Dave’s games at Georgetown,” he said. Urick retired in 2012.

Foley brought women’s lacrosse to Florida in 2010. The school’s $112.8 million athletic program has a staff of 400, yet they say Foley knows all the student athletes by name. After 40 years at the school, Foley retired Oct. 1. Scott Stricklin, formerly the athletic director at Mississippi State, was hired to succeed him. He'll have a tough act to follow in Foley.

Not bad for an old lacrosse player who maybe scored three goals in his college career. Maybe. 

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