Jim McElwain is out at Florida, per multiple reports and sources. The news was first reported by Trey Wallace and Ollie Connelly of The Read Optional before being confirmed by Football Scoop. The logical short list to replace him- though I’ll have much more on this later- is headlined by Central Florida head coach Scott Frost, former Oregon coach Chip Kelly and Mississippi State coach (and former Florida offensive coordinator) Dan Mullen.
Additional sources close to the team have confirmed this to me.
Update 9:45pm: Florida and Jim McElwain have agreed in principle to a $4 million buyout, according to multiple reports. Athletic director Scott Stricklin met with the media a short time ago; you can watch his press conference in its entirety here.
UPDATE 5:15pm: the University has made it official. Billing it as a “mutual parting of ways,” Stricklin announced through the school that Jim McElwain is out as head coach, effective immediately, and that the two parties are still negotiating terms of the separation. The school also confirmed Randy Shannon will serve as the interim head coach.
UPDATE 3:13pm: The players have been informed that McElwain is gone, according to a source close to the team. The source says that it will be billed as a mutual parting of ways, and says that he expects McElwain to be fired instantly and not finish the year the way Ron Zook and Will Muschamp did. As of 3:30pm today, the two camps- the University and McElwain- remain locked in discussions regarding the exact details of his departure. These include when exactly he will leave, whether to officially fire him with cause or without cause, and how much of the approximately $12.7 million Florida will end up paying him in his contract-stipulated buyout money. McElwain does not currently plan to meet with the team and address his firing personally, though that opportunity will remain open to him in the coming hours and days.
UPDATE 2:32pm: according to ESPN, McElwain has been asked to accept a smaller buyout and has not officially- meaning pen to paper, or physical shredding of paper- been fired yet. However, my sources remain adamant about the situation. The reality remains that this will only end one way- with McElwain ceasing to coach the Florida Gators. Florida may not have officially fired him yet, but that’s only because they can’t officially do so until all the last details are worked out. Don’t mistake “they haven’t” with “they won’t.”
*The rest of the original story continues below.*
The sources also confirmed to me that Randy Shannon will serve as the interim head coach for the duration of the year should McElwain be forced out before season’s end. Shannon was the head coach of the Miami Hurricanes from 2007-2010.
But the bottom line is that regardless of the semantics of how the McElwain era at Florida will end, it will end. Florida will have a new head football coach well before the Gators kick off the 2018 season against Charleston Southern.
The details aren’t all clear yet, but some are. I’ll update this story at the top when I get more. Here’s what I have now.
Scott Stricklin and other Florida officials were incensed when McElwain casually mentioned last Monday, for all the world to hear, that he and his family had been on the receiving end of death threats. When Stricklin confronted McElwain about the allegations, he gave no additional details.
Those allegations falsely stigmatize the entire Gator fan base as mentally deranged lunatics, a label that would undoubtedly scare off several other high profile coaches. Of course every fan base has its share of idiots, but McElwain publicly claiming to be a victim of death threats without providing any information about the details of them comes off as him preferring to inflict damage upon the school’s reputation rather than ensure the safety of those he cares about.
Making the problem worse is that McElwain hasn’t come close to delivering the on field results he was expected to. Yes, Florida won the SEC East in his first two seasons, but that was more because of a complete collapse from Tennessee last year and the East just being a complete mess from top to bottom two years ago. More concerning is the fact that McElwain sports 0-2 records against college football heavyweights Alabama, Michigan and (worst of all) archrival Florida State, and the fact that the Gators weren’t competitive in any of those six games beyond halftime goes to show just how far away this program has been from returning to the nation’s elite.
Part of the reason he was hired from Colorado State was so that he could fix the Gators’ offense after the disastrous four year circus the offense became under Will Muschamp. But after yesterday’s ugly 42-7 loss to Georgia, the Gators’ offense now sits at a paltry 114th in the nation in yards per game. Last year, Florida’s offense was 116th in the FBS, and two years ago, it was 114th. Keep in mind that there were 128 FBS teams the last two years; prior to this season, Coastal Carolina and UAB joined those ranks to adjust the total to 130 FBS teams.
And to cap it all off, McElwain- the supposed offensive genius who could win with his dog- has overseen six different quarterbacks, none of whom were particularly effective. Treon Harris regressed from 2014 to 2015, Austin Appleby regressed from his Purdue days, and though he’s only a redshirt freshman, Feleipe Franks has been nothing short of a complete bust so far. It’s not a quarterback problem at this point. It’s coaching.
At the end of the day, it was McElwain’s casual allegations of death threats that gave the University the excuse they needed to fire him, and though it’s irritating to reside in a fan base that’s just had that allegation slapped against it, it’s probably a blessing in disguise. The on field performance under him has not been ideal, but this was the coup de grace. And make no mistake: if Jim McElwain’s record right now is 30-4 instead of 22-12, Florida isn’t looking for an excuse to fire him. If McElwain’s first two and a half years resembled Urban Meyer’s numbers more than Ron Zook’s, he probably just gets a stern talking to about what to say to the media and that’s it.
The exact details of how this will all finish up remain to be seen. But for now, know this: it was a combination of all the factors that will soon lead to McElwain’s dismissal.
And he has nobody to blame but himself.