During Florida’s season-ending loss to Oklahoma at the Women’s College World Series on Saturday, ESPN announcer Beth Mowins spent about an at-bat discussing the possibility that Gators head coach Tim Walton could leave Florida to take the vacant head coaching position at Texas.
She mentioned that Oklahoma’s Patty Gasso had become the nation’s first million-dollar softball coach and that Texas could be poised to hand out a similarly rich deal.
Walton was asked about that prospect in a post-game press conference, and bristled at the question, responding with a non-answer that concluded with “I’ve got a great job, so thank you.”
This was, in a word, annoying. (If we need three? Annoying as hell.)
As it turns out, though, Florida does rich deals like that, too — and the Gators announced a new 10-year contract extension for Walton on Wednesday that all but ensures their great coach will keep his great job deep into the 2020s.
The quotes from Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin in the release make it pretty clear just how esteemed Walton is in Gainesville.
“We want to make sure that everybody understands how happy we are that Tim is our softball coach, and we think making this very public gesture demonstrates that,” UF athletic director Scott Stricklin said. “Anytime you have someone who does a phenomenal job you want them to know they are valued and appreciated and that the commitment is going to be there for a long time. I think it’s good for the University of Florida for Tim Walton to be our softball coach for as long as he wants to be.”
“You look in the outfield at our stadium, and you look at the years of College World Seres appearances since Tim’s been here, and it’s just a remarkable level of consistency at a high, high level,” Stricklin said. “With the young women he’s brought in and the fan support his teams have generated, it’s just hard to imagine you could run a program better than Tim Walton has run the Gators softball program.”
And Walton, whose eldest son is set to play baseball at Santa Fe College in Gainesville as of the fall, sounds like a man at home in his position.
“I was told before I came here that if you win at the University of Florida, it’s the greatest place to live and work,” Walton said. “In 13 years, we’ve demonstrated a track record here for competing for championships and treating our student-athletes and staff in a first-class manner, and now I’m being taken care for working my tail off and building this program the right way. This sends a message to every recruit, to our players, to our alumni, to my family — and a statement to the softball community, as well — that we are Gators and we are going to be Gators for a long, long time. We’re thrilled to be here, thankful for the commitment, and ready to put our head down and keep on working.”
“This feels like home,” Walton said. “It’s a place we’ve shared some great memories and spent some of the best years of our lives as a family. So, yes, it’s home.”
Walton’s deal is the third 10-year commitment that Florida has made to a national championship coach in the last three years, following similar pacts for baseball coach Kevin O’Sullivan — signed in June 2016, prior to him bringing a national title to Gainesville — and track coach Mike Holloway, whose deal came after an unprecedented sweep of the men’s and women’s SEC titles in outdoor track in May.
While financial terms of Walton’s deal were not disclosed in Florida’s release, it is safe to assume leading Florida to consecutive national championships has likely been rewarded with a salary that is competitive with — or beyond — the standard in the sport.