University of Florida soccer head coach Becky Burleigh to retire after spring season
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The woman who started the Gator soccer program revealed today she’s stepping away. Becky Burleigh, 53, announced she is retiring from coaching at the conclusion of the University of Florida’s 2021 spring season.
She made the announcement to the 2020-21 team following today’s practice. This is her 26th season as the Gators’ head coach.
Synonymous with the program she took from start to NCAA champions in four seasons, Burleigh’s teams consistently challenged for national and Southeastern Conference titles. Florida’s 14 team titles leads the SEC and the program earned NCAA Tournament berths 22 of the last 25 seasons.
Over the course of the program’s history, Florida soccer has:
- 22 NCAA Championships’ berths (1996-2001; 2003-2017; 2019)
- Two NCAA College Cup appearances (1998, 2001), winning 1998 NCAA title
- 14 SEC team titles (1996-2001; 2006-2010; 2012-13, 2015)
- 12 SEC Tournament titles (1996-01; 2004; 2007, 2010, 2012, 2015-16)
Florida’s 22 overall NCAA appearances is 12th among Division I programs. Among the top-15 teams in NCAA appearances, Florida is the youngest (25 seasons).
“After spending most of my adult life as Florida’s soccer coach, I’m retiring from coaching at the conclusion of this season,” Burleigh said. “It’s been something I’ve been debating for quite a while. Once I finalized my decision, I felt compelled to share it with the team and our prospective student-athletes rather than wait until the season’s conclusion. Although my future plans are a bit uncertain, I do plan to stay in Gainesville and devote more of my time to What Drives Winning, which has been a passion project of mine for some time.
“But right now, my main focus is getting the team ready for spring 2021 play. I’m confident Scott Stricklin and his staff will find an amazing coach to lead this program because the current and former players have made this a very attractive position” she continued. “It’s been such a privilege to be a member of this program and the Gator Nation for the last 27 years.”
The 1998 NSCAA/adidas National Coach of the Year after leading the four-year old Gator soccer program to that season’s national title, Burleigh also was tabbed as the SEC Coach of the Year five times (2012, 2010, 2008, 2000 & 1996). Twenty-two Gators claimed 37 United Soccer Coaches All-America honors and Danielle Fotopoulos was the 1998 Honda Award winner as national player of the year. SEC Player of the Year accolades have been claimed by 11 players 15 times.
In 31 seasons of coaching which includes five seasons at Berry in Georgia, Burleigh entered the 2020-21 season with 507 wins, placing her No. 2 among active Division I coaches and No. 3 D1 all-time for career victories. Her 26 wins in 1998 marks a career high in single-season wins.
Burleigh’s focus of Person > Player is her ‘why’. In recent years, she’s worked with Brett Ledbetter at What Drives Winning conferences to help other coaches and leaders develop and put in play the lessons of building a better person for successful results on the field.
Florida begins its eight-match spring 2021 season Feb. 19 with a home match versus Florida Atlantic.
UF Associate Head Coaches:
Just like Burleigh, Campbell coached the Gators since their debut season in 1995.
“What a great opportunity and honor it’s been to be a part of this incredible University and help lead the outstanding women who have come through this program. This also will be my final season coaching collegiate soccer. My focus now moves to developing youth soccer programs. Helping players build their foundation of soccer skills and in personal growth is an area I feel needs enhancement in our current national soccer system.” – Victor Campbell
Kirkup is in his 15th season with Gator program, helping the program win eight SEC regular season and four SEC Tournament titles plus advance to NCAA Tournament action 14 times.
“It’s been a wonderful journey being a part of the Gator program. I’ve enjoyed helping the tremendous young women who’ve been exceptional representatives of this University. I’m looking forward to seeing what the next chapter holds.” – Alan Kirkup
“Becky Burleigh has set an incredible standard for excellence in leading the Gators soccer program from its infancy. She has placed Florida soccer amongst the nation’s leaders in her 26 seasons. All of that is due to her efforts and those of all the young women she led for the orange and blue.” – University of Florida Athletic Director Scott Stricklin
“She was a winner before we hired her, a winner when she got here and a winner as a person,” Foley said. “Becky loved the mission of what the Gators were all about. She respected her colleagues and was like a Pied Piper with them, which is something I’ll always respect about her. She was always looking to get better and trying to help everyone around her get better. And the relationships she had with her former players says a lot about her and their admiration for her, which I think you’ll see when this news becomes public.” – UF Emeritus Athletic Director Jeremy Foley