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Florida’s Kevin O’Sullivan issues statement confirming return to Gators

Florida’s head man had been the subject of rumors about a potential move to LSU.

Florida v Miami

Florida Gators head baseball coach Kevin O’Sullivan will remain in that position, saying he is “fully committed” to the program and that “this is where I want to be” in a statement issued Thursday through Florida.

“I am the head coach at the University of Florida and remain fully committed to the Gators program. This is where I want to be, and I do not have interest in the head coach openings at any other schools. I look forward to continuing to build upon the success this program has experienced over the past 14 years, with the goal of bringing Florida back to the College World Series as we pursue yet another National Championship for Gator Nation.”

O’Sullivan, renowned as one of the best head coaches in college baseball, was mentioned often as a candidate for the open job of head coach at LSU, which is being vacated after the season’s end retirement of Paul Maineri, whose Tigers O’Sullivan’s Gators defeated in 2017 to win their first national championship. And while Florida has become one of the top programs in college baseball under O’Sullivan — so much so that the Gators plummeting from a consensus No. 1 ranking to merely hosting and crashing out of the Gainesville Regional was a shocking outcome for the 2021 Florida baseball campaign — there is little question that LSU, which is second all-time with six national titles and the only school east of the Mississippi River with more than four, has the capacity to be the top program in the sport under the right management, so deep is the passion for the sport within both the LSU administration and LSU’s fan base.

O’Sullivan leaving for that job after a disappointing and tumultuous season would have been understandable to a degree, especially if he were seeking distance from an unspeakable off-the-field tragedy involving the deaths of two boys very close to the Florida baseball program. But while salacious rumors about O’Sullivan’s involvement in that tragedy were pushed baselessly and heartlessly by the worst people who populate message boards and social media, no significant attempt to substantiate such claims has been made — and, to editorialize, it’s irresponsible to even mention them obliquely without noting the absurdity and cruelty of Internet-based games of Telephone.

But absent any publicly known details of character concerns or personality conflicts, it would also have been considered an unquestionably massive blow to Florida’s athletics department for the Gators to lose him, especially to a rival. Whether Florida augmented or enhanced O’Sullivan’s contract to keep him — as it did in 2016, when Texas pursued him — will be interesting to see.

For now, the bottom line is that Florida has managed to keep one of the most coveted workers in college baseball in its employ despite two legendary competitors showing real interest in him — and, in this case, doing so despite O’Sullivan having already reached the mountaintop while at Florida.