In a move that caught many collegiate track and field observers by surprise, University of Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart announced Monday that Edrick Floreal is the new coach of the Wildcats.
Floreal, a UK assistant from 1995 through 1997, returns after a highly successful run at Stanford University, where he was an assistant from 1998-2005 and director of track and field for the past eight seasons.
He soon will be heading to London as the Team USA jumps coach at the Summer Olympic Games.
That Floreal would leave national-power Stanford for Kentucky prompted Track & Field News magazine to label one of its tweets "a coaching shocker."
UK's men placed eighth in the Southeastern Conference outdoor championships and the women finished 12th.
Floreal's deal with UK is for five years, with a base total salary of $1.14 million, plus incentives, endorsements and a $75,000 signing bonus. His salary is scheduled to be $200,000 the first year, $220,000 the second year, then $240,000 each of the next three years.
He will lead the UK men's and women's programs in cross country, as well as indoor and outdoor track and field.
Floreal succeeds the coach who brought him to UK, Don Weber, who recently retired after 34 years in the program and 28 years as head coach.
"I am very excited to return to Kentucky and guide this program into a new era of success," Floreal said in a statement issued by UK. "I am certain that with the support of the administration and the Wildcat community, we can accomplish great things. The new outdoor track and field facility provides the perfect venue to accomplish the many goals I have for UK. My wife and I are looking forward to being back in the SEC, competing against the best in track and field and taking part in the new rise of champions at Kentucky. The potential is limitless and I am excited to join the Big Blue Nation as part of the Wildcat family."
Floreal's wife, former Tennessee standout LaVonna Martin-Floreal, was the 1992 Olympic silver-medalist in the 100-meter hurdles.
Under Floreal's watch, Stanford had 91 athletes garner 197 All-America honors.
Last school year, the Stanford women finished sixth in the NCAA outdoor meet, with an individual champion in the pole vault, and they took 13th indoors. The Cardinal men placed 11th indoors and 18th outdoors, including an individual title in the 400-meter hurdles. In all, Stanford athletes won 16 all-America honors last season.
"Somebody I thought would be a good choice from the beginning," Weber said of Floreal. "I think it's a fricking grand slam of a hire.
"When he was here, he had an unbelievable work ethic. I described him to Mitch as 'he's a force when it comes to recruiting.' I know there's other great coaches out there, and I don't know all of them, but I know him, and he's a great one."
A two-time Canadian Olympian (1988, 1992), Floreal won five NCAA triple-jump titles while competing for Arkansas.
He will have a new outdoor track and field facility at UK. The synthetic surface on the oval is scheduled to be poured next week.
"We couldn't be more excited for our track and field program, for our athletes," Barnhart said.
"He's a guy that brings an unbelievable passion for winning and academics."
Stanford produced four Academic All-Americans last season, plus 41 on the Pac-12 All-Academic teams.
As for staff, Barnhart said "we're working our way through that right now. It's real early. ... My gut feeling is that he would probably bring most of his own staff with him. I don't know that for sure."
With cross country season opening in less than two months, Floreal won't have much time to settle in. He will get to keep his commitment to the Olympics, though.
"We actually want him to be able to fulfill that obligation," Barnhart said. "Those opportunities don't come around very often, although I think they'll come around for Edrick again. But I want him to participate in the Olympics. It's our country, and I want him to be able to participate at whatever level he feels he needs to and wants to."
Four of Floreal's Stanford athletes will be competing in London, representing the United States, Bermuda, Greece and Nigeria.
Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229. Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com