The swim facilities at the University of Florida were not the element that swayed Tori Bindi.
But everything else did.
Bindi, a Gulf Breeze High senior and six-time Florida prep state champion, ended a recruiting push from many of the top collegiate swim programs and some of the nation’s most renown academic universities by announcing Wednesday she would join the Florida Gators.
“I think it was the combination of everything that Florida has,” Bindi said. “The UF athletic program with how well they work with academics is what stood out to me. Because I eventually want to go on to bigger things in life on the academic side.
“And so how the academic advisor works with the swimmer and coaches’ schedule really stood out on how much everybody cares. And the other thing that put (UF) over was just the people there are so amazing, so welcoming and I felt like home as soon as I got there.”
For all her travels in Florida, all the club meets, all the state high school meets, Bindi and her family had never pulled off the Interstate-75 exit in Gainesville and traveled to see UF until her official recruiting visit.
“It was three weeks ago when I was there and I just knew if I chose to go there, I would have the best four years of my life,” Bindi said.
But the decision was not easy. Bindi had scholarship offers from everywhere, including Ivy League beacons Harvard and Yale. Tennessee, Auburn and Vanderbilt were among the other to SEC swim schools she considered, along with Florida State, North Carolina and N.C. State.
“She probably had 20 schools narrowed down earlier in the summer,” said Vic Bindi, her father. “I think Florida had the best balance of athletic success and academics.”
Bindi, the most decorated female swimmer in the Pensacola area since Beth Barr and Andrea Hayes made the U.S. Olympic Team in 1988, plans to officially sign on Nov. 12 when the NCAA early signing period begins for all sports except football.
Bindi said she wanted to make a choice and let the other schools know in order to focus on the finale of her last high school season. The district, regional and state championship meets are scheduled in succession later this month.
In choosing UF, Bindi will join a Florida Gators women’s swim team with world talent that includes members from England, Scotland, New Zealand, Germany, Greece, Canada and Australia on the roster.