Fotopolous' Push Helps Get Bohon To Florida As Soccer Coach

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — One of Samantha Bohon's best friends started nudging her toward the Florida women's soccer job a year ago. The friend happened to be the greatest scorer in NCAA history.

Danielle Fotopolous first suggested Bohon for the Gators' head coaching position when program architect Becky Burleigh retired in 2021. The timing wasn't quite right then for Bohon, a 45-year-old mother of three boys who was born, raised and coaching in nearby Daytona Beach.

It felt perfect this time around.

Florida formally hired Bohon on Monday, tasking her with revitalizing a stumbling program that used to be the one to beat in the Southeastern Conference. Fotopolous, who still holds the NCAA record for goals (118) and points (284), surprised her close friend and onetime bridesmaid by showing up for her introductory news conference.

“We’ve been through a lot of the same struggles, the same excitement, the same highs and lows and we’ve always been there for each other," Fotopolous said. “She’s done a lot for me. She’s been like a sister me.”

Bohon replaces Tony Amato, who was fired last month amid complaints he made comments about his players’ eating habits, body shapes and weights. Amato lasted 11 months after signing a six-year contract to replace Burleigh.

Bohon, whose maiden name was Samantha Baggett, takes over in Gainesville after 15 years at Embry-Riddle University. She was a five-time conference coach of the year with the Eagles, helping them transition from NAIA to NCAA Division II and becoming a power in the Sunshine State Conference. Embry-Riddle won the last two conference tournaments (2019, ’21).

“She was on our radar last year,” Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin said. “The timing wasn’t right from her standpoint. We never actually talked, but the feedback we got was, ‘You should look at her.’ ... She has a great background that is very varied and diverse. Then you meet her and that personality comes out. You can see why she’s successful.”

Bohon’s career record is 167-76-16, including 78-25-6 in league play. She also has SEC experience, having served as an assistant at Tennessee (2001-05) and helping the Lady Vols win three SEC titles and advance three times to the NCAA Tournament's round of 16.

Bohon grew up in Daytona Beach and played club soccer with Fotopolous in Orlando before becoming a four-year starter at Duke (1994-97). They became best friends back then and have remained close since, even squaring off on opposite sidelines annually since 2015; Fotopolous coaches at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg.

Bohon was affiliated with the U.S. women’s national team between 1998 and 2000, first as a team captain for the Under-21 national team and then a floating member of the 1999 Women’s World Cup Residency program. She made two international appearances with the full team, scoring a goal against Finland in 1999 and registering an assist against Ukraine the previous year. She also played for the Raleigh Wings in the W-League, which won a championship in 1999.

Her top priority in Gainesville will be to settle and rebuild a program that had more than a dozen players enter the NCAA transfer portal since the end of last season and get it back to being among the SEC's elite. The Gators won 14 conference titles and made the NCAA Tournament 22 times during Burleigh's 26 seasons, which peaked with the 1998 national championship led by Fotopolous, Heather Mitts and Abby Wambach.

“It’s no secret that there’s some rebuilding here, and that really excites me, to be honest,” Bohon said. “That’s not a negative for me. I think that we get to again invest in the student, person and player and do things the right way, and I’m very excited for that opportunity.”

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