A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Edrick Floreal not interested in easing out
of mediocrity in building UK track program

Last season the UK men finished seventh and the UK women finished 12th in the Southeastern Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Meanwhile, the Stanford men placed eighth and the Stanford women placed 14th nationally.


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So why would the Stanford head coach leave California for UK?


“I guess that the different part is beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” said new UK track and field coach Edrick Floreal. “They look at me kind of backing up and going to UK as ‘really?’ In my eyes, what I see here, what I see that this place has to offer, I’m not going to try to explain it to anybody else. That’s for me.”


Floreal returns to UK after spending 14 years at Stanford, including six as the head coach. He previously was a UK assistant from 1996-98.


“When I was here way back in the 90s, when I was young and didn’t have any gray hairs, I believed that we could be really good as a team,” Floreal said Thursday at UK fall sports media day. “I believed we could recruit the best athletes in the country. I believed that this would be a logical place for great athletes to come.


“I didn’t feel like this was shared by everybody. It was important that I felt like everybody felt like this team could be great, and I just didn’t feel that to be flat-out honest. I do feel like now it’s important. I feel like it’s shared.”


Floreal first met with UK Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart about the UK job at the U. S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore., in June. He was officially named the new Wildcat head coach on July 9.


The honeymoon period didn’t last long though, as Floreal traveled to London as the U. S. jumps/combined events coach at the 2012 Olympics.


“I was under the impression that I was sort of going to hang out, enjoy the moment and take a couple weeks break before I come back to my real job,” Floreal said. “I didn’t know this was going to be another real job.”


Edrick Floreal. (Photo from Team USA)

In London, Floreal was tasked with meeting whatever needs the track and field athletes had. Those tasks ranged from escorting one athlete from his hotel room to the arena every day to arranging meals, travel schedules and workout times for most of the team.


“Ashton Eaton wanted me to be involved in everything,” Floreal said the of the decathlon gold medalist. “He texted me. He called me.”


Floreal’s trip to London didn’t start smoothly as his airline lost his luggage. The one shirt he had for the first day of his trip had a UK logo on it, which caused some confusion for the locals.


“Some guy was like, ‘Right on man,'” Floreal said. “I was like ‘It’s not the United Kingdom.’ He didn’t get the UK. ‘Kentucky, what is that?’ He thought I was promoting the United Kingdom.”


The Big Blue Nation’s reach might be far, but Floreal wasn’t very successful in converting that Englishman to a Wildcat fan.


“It wasn’t working,” he said. “We agreed to disagree that UK was my UK and his UK was some other UK.”


Floreal returns from London to begin his attempt to build the UK program into a national contender.


“I’m not interested in coming here and sort of easing out of this thing,” he said. “A friend of mine said, ‘Sucking is not something that I want to ease out of.’ I’m not interested in easing out of what we are at UK.”


Barnhart is on board with that plan, noting the importance of the track and field program to the overall success of the department.


“In the way that we are trying to grow our sports program, track and field counts six times,” he said. “What I mean by that is you have men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s indoor track, men’s and women’s outdoor track. Those national finishes, conference finishes, individual finishes are very, very important to how we want to grow our sports program competitively.”


To meet those goals, Floreal is committed to changing the identity of the program.


“I think (the athletes) are anticipating a little bit more pain than they’re used to, but I think they’re excited to know that this is something that’s important to me,” he said. “Whatever they do, I’m going to go through it with them. That’s my philosophy.”


Floreal means that promise literally.


“I think being involved is important,” he said. “We tell kids what to do, we expect them to do it, but then we can’t get out of bed to go do it with them. If I’m going to ask them to get up and go to study hall, I’m going to show up and read a book. It’s going to show them that I’m involved.”


He hopes that philosophy will help establish UK as a national power. He thinks the recruiting base will help too.


“I think this job is an opportunity to recruit from five percent of the population at Stanford to 95 percent of the population here at UK,” he said. “That’s a lot more people. I’m definitely in love with the idea of being able to recruit more student athletes and be in a community that appreciates what I do.”


Floreal doesn’t mince words when describing what building the UK program could do for his legacy.


“I feel like right now we have nowhere but up to go,” he said. “The women were last in the SEC. I think I can do better than that, actually I’m pretty sure I can do better than that. It makes it a lot easier to build.


“When I get to that point, nobody else can take credit for that because when I took it over it was at the bottom, so I can kind of build something. In the end you get the chance to put your name on it, you get the chance to put your stamp on it.”


Floreal said he also realizes that not everyone understands that optimism. He thinks it won’t be long until they come around.


“I have a sign on my door: ‘Those who hear not the music think the dancer is mad,'” he said. “A lot of people are going to think I’m mad, but I’m going to have the tune in my head. I can hear it. By the time I’m done, people will hear that tune also.”

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