Sen. Ben Sasse confirmed as next president of the University of Florida

By: - November 9, 2022 1:51 pm

Gov. Elect Jim Pillen will decide who fills the vacancy left by the resignation of Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., in January. (Tom Williams-Pool/Getty Images)

LINCOLN — U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., was confirmed Wednesday as the next president of the University of Florida, multiple sources are reporting.

The university’s Board of Governors voted to confirm Sasse, 50, who had served as president of Midland University in Fremont before he was elected to the Senate in 2014. One “no” vote was lodged by a student member of the board.

Confirmed despite protests

Sasse was confirmed despite protests from students about his stance against gay marriage, and a “no confidence” vote from the university’s faculty.

Sasse tweeted that he plans to resign his U.S. Senate seat the first week in January. He will begin his new job on Feb. 6.

Nebraska Gov.-Elect Jim Pillen was endorsed and financially supported by Gov. Pete Ricketts. (Aaron Sanderford/Nebraska Examiner)

Gov. Pete Ricketts, who may be a candidate for the vacancy, has said he will let the next governor, Gov.-elect Jim Pillen, appoint a successor

Ricketts and Pillen are political allies, with Ricketts contributing more than $1.3 million into Pillen’s tight, GOP primary race against Falls City businessman Charles Herbster and State Sen. Brett Lindstrom.

Ricketts ran for Senate in 2006

It is widely assumed that the Senate post is Ricketts’ if he wants it. He ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 2006, losing to then-U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson. Ricketts, a millionaire member of the family that owns the Chicago Cubs and founded TD Ameritrade, is completing his second term as governor and was prevented from running for re-election due to term limits.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that Sasse will get a compensation package worth $1.35 million a year in his first year, rising to $1.6 million by his sixth year.

He will be the 13th president in the history of the Tallahassee, Florida-based school, and was picked among 700 applicants.

The university issued the following statement: “Ben’s a consensus-builder with an exciting vision for the Gator Nation. We look forward to welcoming his family to Gainesville and to UF’s continued momentum under his leadership.”

Sasse, as part of his hiring agreement, will not be involved in partisan politics in any way. He told the Associated Press that he wants the school to draw people from diverse backgrounds.

‘No bullying,’ AP reports

“We want no bullying. We want no intimidation,” Sasse said, according to the AP. “I want us to be a place that has open hearts and thick skin.”

Some questions arose over Sasse’s capacity to manage a much larger university. Florida’s enrollment is 50,000 students, compared to 1,400 at Midland.

Sasse will replace current UF President Kent Fuchs, who has held the job since 2015 and decided to return to teaching. Sasse told the board Wednesday that he plans to retain Fuchs as an adviser.

“We aspire for Gainesville to be the center of a revolution for higher education in America,” Sasse said, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

The confirmation vote had been scheduled for Thursday but was moved up a day because of Tropical Storm Nicole threatening Florida. Sasse attended the meeting via video hookup due to the storm threat.

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Paul Hammel
Paul Hammel

Senior Reporter Paul Hammel has covered the Nebraska state government and the state for decades. Previously with the Omaha World-Herald, Lincoln Journal Star and Omaha Sun, he is a member of the Omaha Press Club's Hall of Fame. He grows hops, brews homemade beer, plays bass guitar and basically loves traveling and writing about the state. A native of Ralston, Nebraska, he is vice president of the John G. Neihardt Foundation.