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UF Soccer: Florida Names Tony Amato Gators Soccer Coach

Courtesy of University Athletic Association

BY MARY HOWARD

The University of Florida has hired Tony Amato to lead the Gators soccer program, director of athletics Scott Stricklin announced Monday.

Amato gained a winning blend of maximizing talent, preparation, and putting players in a position for success during his 18-year head coaching stops at Rollins, Stephen F. Austin, and most recently, Arizona.

With a knack for renovating programs, Amato has returned two Division I programs to NCAA Tournament action. He’s also helped guide student-athletes to all-conference, all-region, and academic success.

In each of his three head coaching stops, Amato led programs to NCAA Tournament action. Rollins made its first NCAA Division II appearances in 2008 and 2009, Stephen F. Austin returned to NCAA play in 2012 after a four-year absence, and Arizona’s 2014 appearance came after missing eight years of postseason play.

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Amato is the second head coach for the Gators program, which begins its 27th season in fall 2021. Becky Burleigh, who coached the Gators since their first season in 1995, retired from coaching at the conclusion of the 2020-21 campaign.

Tony Amato, University of Florida Soccer Coach:

“The University of Florida is a special place, and I am extremely excited for this opportunity. I have admired Florida Soccer and the program Becky Burleigh built since I started coaching at Rollins College. I am honored to follow in her footsteps and will work tirelessly to make our administration, alumni, and fans proud of our Gator team.

“The goal is to build off our players’ strengths and put them in a position for success. This, combined with attending a top-10 academic university, gives our players the opportunity to maximize their potential on and off the field.

“I would like to thank Scott Stricklin and the entire search committee for believing in me to lead Florida Soccer to future success. My family and I are looking forward to returning to the state of Florida where we have so many great relationships.  We cannot wait to meet the team and start on this journey together.”

 Scott Stricklin, University of Florida Athletics Director:

“Tony Amato’s been a proven and consistent winner at each of the three programs he’s led. Each of those programs enjoyed a significant rise in success under Tony’s watch, including consistent NCAA bids. As someone who grew up in Florida and has coached in the state, he understands that the University of Florida is a special place, and his plan for Gators soccer completely aligns with our vision to succeed at the highest SEC and national levels.

“Tony draws from his knowledge as both a player and coach, enabling him to help players maximize their individual skills and abilities, but his definition of success expands beyond the pitch. He has the ability to connect with his players on an individual level, and they in turn have earned high academic achievements while also being active in the community.” 

Amato’s Coaching Career:

At Arizona:
Amato inherited a Wildcat program in 2013 that last appeared in postseason play in 2005. He took over a struggling Wildcat program and turned it into an NCAA Tournament mainstay in the highly competitive Pac-12 conference.

He led the 2013 Wildcats to their first winning season (9-7-4) in seven campaigns. In just his second season in Tucson, the 2014 Wildcats earned an NCAA Tournament berth, advancing to the NCAA Second Round.

The 2015 Wildcats extended their tournament run to the NCAA Round of 16 as their 14 wins stands as the program’s season wins record. NCAA Tournament berths were also earned in 2017, ’18 and ’19, with UA reaching the NCAA Second Round each year.

In his eight seasons at Arizona, seven players earned a total of 13 All-Pac 12 Conference honors. Nine picked up 15 Pac-12 All-Academic honors. He posted a record of 88-53-17 with the Wildcats, becoming Arizona’s all-time wins leader early in the 2018 campaign.

Prior to Amato’s arrival for the 2013 campaign, Arizona last appeared in the coaches top 25 on Oct. 3, 2006. Nearly nine years later, the Wildcats returned to the top 25 on Sept. 22, 2015 and held the No. 19 position on that season’s final poll.

The Wildcats also excelled in the classroom, with the team earning recognition as a United Soccer Coaches Team Academic Award winner in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2019 and 2020. Sheaffer Skadsen received the 2015 Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year award. Also that season, she became Arizona’s first soccer player recognized as a CoSIDA Academic All-American.

At Stephen F. Austin:
SFA was in the league’s top two in the regular-season standings in each of his three seasons, including winning the 2011 and 2012 titles. The 2012 Lumberjacks swept the Southland Conference titles, claiming the league’s NCAA automatic berth by winning the conference tournament.

Southland Conference Coach of the Year honors went to Amato in 2011 and 2012.

In the final 2012 NCAA RPI, SFA claimed an all-time high of 31 as the Lumberjacks had registered wins over Southeastern Conference, Big 12 and Conference USA programs.

Nine SFA players claimed 16 All-Southland Conference honors during Amato’s tenure. Kylie Louw earned the Player of the Year honor in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

The Lumberjacks earned its first three United Soccer Coaches Team Academic Award recognitions (2010, 2011, 2012) during Amato’s stay in Nacogdoches.

Coaching Career Start at Rollins:
Amato’s head coaching career started in 2003 when he took over the women’s program at his alma mater, Rollins.

Several program firsts were achieved under Amato’s watch:

  *   Sunshine State Conference champions (2008, 2009)
  *   SSC Tournament champions (2009)
  *   Advanced to NCAA Division II Tournament (2008, 2009)
  *   Lindsay Giblin was first Tar named SSC Player of Year in 2006 (repeated in 2007). She became Rollins first NSCAA All-American in 2008.
  *   Dana Merrill was program’s first to claim SSC Defensive Player of the Year and was All-America honorable mention in 2008.

In his seven years in Winter Park, Fla., 14 players claimed 27 All-SSC honors. Rollins earned its first three United Soccer Coaches Team Academic Award recognitions (2007, 2008, 2009) in Amato’s final three seasons.

Sunshine State Conference Coach of the Year honors went to Amato in his final two seasons (2008 and 2009).

As a Player:
Amato was Rollins’ first Sunshine State Conference Player of the Year as a senior in 1999. He also earned All-SSC honors in 1997 and 1998. He claimed 1999 All-South Region honors and was Rollins Student-Athlete of the Year.

Amato’s goals (41), assists (26) and points (108) still stand among Rollins’ career top 10.

He was named to the 2000 CoSIDA Academic All-America At-Large second team.

More Amato Info:
After graduation, Amato was an assistant for Rollins’ women’s team from 2001-02. He then was an assistant men’s coach at Stetson in the spring of 2003.

He graduated from Rollins in 2000 with a degree in area studies and earned his master’s in exercise physiology from Central Florida in 2002.

Amato also worked with local club soccer and Olympic Development Programs within the Florida Youth Soccer Association.

He and his wife, Samantha, have two daughters – Cecily (5) and Marella (1).

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