The University of Florida and Gators Coach Jim McElwain have agreed to part ways Sunday, a day after a third consecutive loss — and shortly after he said that its football team and players' families had received death threats over their losing season.
McElwain’s downfall was more about relationships than records (3-4, 3-3 Southeastern Conference).
His already strained rapport with administrators reached a new low last Monday when he said Florida players and families had received death threats. The bombshell shocked Athletic Director Scott Stricklin, who had not been previously notified about a potentially harmful situation.
Stricklin met with McElwain later that day, and the coach rebuffed a request to provide more information about the threats. The athletic department responded with a statement that essentially criticized McElwain for being uncooperative.
McElwain said two days later that he would provide more details about the death threats “when it becomes unmanageable,” but gave no other details.
Stricklin named defensive coordinator Randy Shannon the team’s interim coach for the final four games.
“We want to thank Coach McElwain for his efforts in leading the Gator football program,” Stricklin said in a statement. “We are confident Coach Shannon will provide the proper guidance to the players and rest of staff during this time, and we will begin a national search for the next head coach.”
The parties are negotiating McElwain’s $12.5 million buyout.
Florida, which is still paying former coach Will Muschamp, would like to significantly reduce McElwain’s sum and could use his actions over the last week as leverage.
Regardless of the outcome, McElwain’s tenure will be remembered for failing to fix a floundering offense.
Three years ago, McElwain proclaimed he could win with his dog at quarterback.
The Gators currently rank 113th in total offense, in triple digits nationally for the third time in McElwain’s three seasons.
McElwain went 22-12 with the Gators, including 4-9 against ranked teams, and became the first coach in league history to take a team to the SEC championship game in his first two years.
Florida was eliminated from contention in the Eastern Division with a 42-7 loss to rival Georgia on Saturday. It was Florida’s most lopsided loss in the series since 1982.
“I know what I was brought here to do. Look, we haven’t been good on offense, I get it,” McElwain said on Saturday night. “We’ve won a few games, but we haven’t won enough. We haven’t won a championship. That’s real. That’s life. That is this business, and I take full responsibility for all of it.”
McElwain’s problems started long before last week.
The former Alabama assistant and Colorado State head coach complained publicly about Florida’s facilities shortly after taking the job and openly questioned the school’s commitment to the football program two years later. His initial comments came while the Gators were planning to build an indoor practice facility and his most recent ones came after they had announced plans to build a $60 million, stand-alone football facility.
Fox Sports analyst Joel Klatt called him out for his history of unsportsmanlike conduct, tweeting: “McElwain treated his staff at Colorado State terrible once he got the Florida job that they helped him get...Sorry I don’t feel sorry.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.