Andreu’s Analysis: Mac wanted out?

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Former Florida coach Jim McElwain. [The Associated Press]

Intriguing and thought-provoking theories certainly never get old, and I’ve come up with one of my own.

Like many, mine is not based on cold, hard, irrefutable facts or on information gleaned from unnamed and unseen sources. Mine comes from a strong, gut feeling formed by some observations made from last football season, and some before that.

Ready for it?

Here it is: Jim McElwain wanted to get fired. He wanted to get out of Gainesville and Gator Nation last fall as quickly and lucratively as he could — and he pulled it off.

He orchestrated it quite deftly. As the theory goes, he knew failure off the field and on last season would not be enough to lead to his firing and a big buyout ($12.9 million) from Florida. But he found the tipping point, and he delivered it at that Monday news conference before the Georgia game when he said he, his players and his family had received death threats, supposedly from disgruntled Gator fans.

The UF administration did not buy it and neither did anybody else. It was obvious McElwain was not being truthful. And, my theory goes, that’s exactly the way he wanted to be perceived on the issue.

It led to what McElwain knew it would: UF had a difficult task proving McElwain was being fired for cause, so the two sides (UF and McElwain and his agent) sat down and negotiated a mutual parting of the ways.

McElwain got just what he wanted: freedom from a job he’d grown weary of and happiness in the form of a negotiated buyout of $7.5 million.

So, basically, McElwain earned financial security and got out of a job he no longer liked by failing and lying.

McElwain received his first payment from UF ($3.75 million) on Dec. 1. His second will come on July 1 ($250,000). Then he’ll receive the remaining $3.5 million over the course of the following three years.

That’s quite a deal.

It was obvious to me, and many others, that McElwain — he from the wide-open spaces of Montana — never seemed completely happy or content in his job and in his surroundings. He complained (and rightfully so) about the condition of facilities and struggled to get along with others in the administration.

He really seemed down at times last season, so much so that on two occasions he was asked by a member of the media if something was bugging him or if he didn’t feel well.

Who knows, maybe it was just indifference. Or maybe he just didn’t want to be here any longer.

Whatever it was, it seemed to suck much of the energy out of the football program, something that was reflected on the field and in the weight room, especially in the weight room, based on what we’re hearing now.

Mac shouldn’t be feeling down anymore. The pressure is off. He’s got plenty of money and he’ll certainly coach again. He’ll look for a better fit in his next job.

So, there it is, my thought-provoking theory. Anybody buying it?

93 COMMENTS

  1. Robbie – Anybody buying it? Heck, we’ve been saying it for months out here in the Gator Nation! Sadly, we paid way to much to have him exit and certainly based on the results, it could be argued he owed UF money.

    I said to my son when I saw the picture of him smiling at his wife while they were walking off the field after the Georgia blowout, “You know what that smile says – “That ought to do it Honey – we’re out of here for sure now.”

  2. I thought so originally as well, but I no longer think I was correct. The way he trolls twitter is like a man who was spurned. I now think all the negative pressure got to him and he cracked under that pressure. In the end he was not the right fit for UF and vise a versa.
    I was originally not in the Mullen camp for the job but his passion for the gig is also making me question that thinking as well. Go Gators

  3. Robbie–whether accurate or not, it is an interesting and thoughtful hypothesis. I have seen the same phenomenon up close, i.e., arranging circumstances to get fired, preferring to be fired rather than quit outright. In McElwain’s case, if your conjecture is correct, he was not merely trying to avoid quitting but after a larger goal viz., the one you mentioned.

  4. I think there’s another aspect that is missing: McElwain came from a SEC school (Alabama) that puts football first. Everything second. Now, that whole argument is for another time, but you could tell from his comments (Calling Jeremy Foley a “cheap sumbitch” at one presser, and questioning the commitment of the administration at another) that he wasn’t happy with being relegated to the same status as the Head Soccer coach, or even golf coach. Being told to wait on new facilities to compete with the rest of the SEC didn’t sit well, either. McElwain saw that at Alabama, football was number 1. NUMBER ONE in capital letters. That’s not the case at Florida, and that didn’t sit well with his ego. I think it will be very interesting to see where McElwain ends up, and how he does.

    • Tommy, I beg to differ. Football is the number one sports program at Florida. But the overall athletic program at Florida is currently better than the Bama athletic program because Florida does spread the wealth more throughout the athletics program. And that is not a bad thing. Ask the coaches of the Florida basketball, baseball, softball, gymnastics, track, golf, swimming, and soccer programs; all of which compete for championships every year, with many of them winning SEC and national titles. Florida provided McElwain with a new indoor, state of the art practice facility, and new athletics facility for academic achievement, and improved dorms for players. And a new football facility is in the works. But so is a new baseball stadium and the basketball arena has undergone a total renovation. Florida is doing what is required to keep up with the Joneses, but not just in football. And that is what makes Florida one of the top college sports programs in the country. McElwain, on the other hand, did not live up to his end of the bargain, or his 4 million plus annual salary.

      • Rick, thanks for a well thought out, concise and level headed overview of the overall UF athletic program. I agree that football at UF is #1 ( and everywhere else in the SEC but Kentucky) but a healthy and successful total program is the overriding objective. UF is the ONLY school to date that has won both a Men’s and Women’s Capitol 1 cup, and is one of only 4 schools that has won NC’s in football, baseball and men’s basketball. Also, the only school to win both the football and Men’s Basketball championships in the same school year. Pretty heady stuff I would say! Yes, the new indoor practice facility for football was long overdue, and probably the stand alone facility for football as well. But UF has won NC’s in both baseball and softball in the last 3 years in facilities that are also badly behind our SEC standards, and I am delighted to see these being addressed. I trust that the new AD will put some of the $41 million check just received from the SEC office to good use in ALL of these areas. Again Rick, thanks for sharing a rational point of view that is much needed.

  5. Simply and clearly put in hindsight, the Florida head coaching job was just too big and demanding for McElwain clearly did not want to put in the work required of a 4 million plus dollar annual salary as the head of a major college football program. Now, he comfortably sits and collects millions of dollars watching the Montana scenery while Mullen and his staff earn their money with passion for the job that needs to be done. Mullen is clearly a smarter coach than either McElwain or Muschamp were during their times at Florida, and he clearly is a much harder worker than McElwain. I have confidence, for the first time since Mullen first left Florida for MSU and Meyer was having panic attacks, that the Florida program is in good hands. Time to move quickly forward, and I am personally looking forward to the results of Mullen and staff’s hard work recruiting the last couple of months. I think their hard work is going to pay off, as it will this season and more so during the upcoming seasons.

  6. I hope Dan Mullen kills it and brings a tremendous experience to the players this year and going forward. They certainly deserve it after enduring the lack of coaching and leadership McElwain provided; including the university’s administration as well. I’m amazed that someone like McElwain coached all those years without being exposed. It brings proof of just how overpaid coaches are today and guys like McElwain should never be allowed to coach again. He’s not a good leader or role model for young men.

  7. Sure I buy it but for a different reason, the job and getting along with people was too hard for him. I read he had similar issues at his last job being polite and appropriate with his co-workers and bosses. I suspect he won’t be a head coach at a large college ever again, and he might just retire, he has enough money for the rest of his life.

  8. Robbie, Coach Mac behaved like a guy who wanted out, but he never demonstrated the kind of intelligence needed to hatch a plan like the one you attributed to him. Much more likely, the pressure of high expectations wore him down. Then in tired frustration, he started lashing out at others, culminating in his death threats tirade. But, this is old news…
    Right now, Coach Mullen is has a high coaching IQ. For the past several weeks he has been building excitement and positivity around the entire athletic program at UF. I can’t wait to see what the team can do next fall. Go Gators!

  9. Jimmy Mac was way over his head at Florida and sure glad he’s gone, however I believe the very least he can do is reimburse every Gator that went to Dallas $500, that is where his real coaching talent showed up and those that were there saw it first hand. Please move on, Fusion GPS is old news.

  10. The tenor and substance of the post game presser in Jax is consistent with Robbie’s thesis here. He knew he had failed, and that he was never going to be able to make it work.
    Additionally, for all of those who still worship at the alter of Foley let this episode be the last chapter of a putrid mess he created and is responsible for.

  11. As Rick Gillmore said: “Football is the number one sports program at Florida. But the overall athletic program at Florida is currently better than the Bama athletic program because Florida does spread the wealth more throughout the athletics program.” Well said sir. However, there needs to be some genuine commitment to building the stand alone. If you all remember, the UAA contracted with an architect and shovels were supposed be in the ground in December. Last week, Stricklin said we will have more information in the coming months which leaves a huge question of commitment. The point is it has to be built or it will not matter how much magic Mullen does. He cannot compete against lacking facilities.

  12. Jim McElwain is a total fraud that had no business even being considered for the Gator HBC job. Foley failed miserably, this time in colossal fashion (Zook and Muschamp at least had a few qualifications) as he clearly did not take the time to vet this guy for leadership ability, public speaking ability, aggressiveness, assertiveness or any other factor that is an absolute must for this pinnacle-level job. And he surrounded himself with incompetents just like him – Nussmeier, Nord, etc that ensured doom on the program for as long as they were stinking up the place. Goodbye and Good Riddance to them all. Dan Mullen has already shown what a difference one leader and his staff can make. We are in good hands now, and will be alright in the long run. Dan is a seasoned SEC head coach that obviously loves the position and opportunity he grasped when Stricklin offered. This is a leader we can all get behind! GO GATORS!!!

    • I agree with most of your comments regarding McElwain. However, on paper he was more qualified than Zook or Muschamp. He was the OC for a multiple national championships with Alabama and had 3 years of head coaching experience. When it came to hiring head football coaches you have to wonder what Jeremy Foley was thinking.

  13. His spine was just as yellow as his teeth. I believe Robbie is correct; he cracked under the pressure, and he desperately wanted to get fired. His dishonest had become apparent — the insane claims about how great the offensive line was going to be, how great the offense was going to be– each exposed in the Michigan game as a pathetic joke. His deranged championing of the pitiful NussMire and his garbage scow offense. His ludicrous claims that a broken down, over the hill back up quarterback was suddenly a world beating super star “elevating the play of all around him.”

    I have yet to see anything much about the giant raises he convinced Strickland to give the assistant coaches based on all these lies, but I am sure they are also getting paid, so he not only made sure he got taken care of but his band of drooling incompetents as well. Will another incompetent AD give this scammer a chance? Of course. As they say, there’s a Jeremy Fooley born every minute.

  14. Mac went down hill after losing defensive star Harris and find out about the credit card scandal for 9 players. He was depressed after that. He also probably found out about UF moving the baseball stadium which delayed his football “all in one” center and felt he was doomed by that delay.

    • i agree with the first point, not sure or unsure about the second. either way, coaching uf football is a brutal job. jimbo left fsu in also a strange ending… I still don’t get the Georgia / richt ending. to me there really hasn’t been a good ending of a coaching career at florida I can remember, going back to ray graves. I suppose you could SOS leaving was ok, but to choose Daniel Snyder over Florida – its a shame coach spurrier didn’t get a decent situation in the nfl. so its on to the next thing, but I hope as fans we can make mullen’s life better than this list

  15. Well, Robbie has done it again. If the “Don’t Rule Out Franks” debate wasn’t strong enough–pro and con–here’s another one! You should get a Pulitzer for this series, Bud! There is a difference though, this debate is one of decidedly more consensus with the actual ‘debate’ being more in the nuances. Either way, once again very rational and well formed opinions. And great to see some recently silent members back posting as well.

    That said, without going into my credentials to opine, I would say that Robbie is essentially correct in his premise. The only question really is, was the behavior conscious, planned, and volitional–or was it unconscious, reactionary, and irrationally self protective. We can debate that until the cow’s come home, absent the ability to interview him in person, take a comprehensive history, perform a proper examination, and base a conclusion on sufficient medical-psychological certainty. In any event, I’ll try to contribute what is probably the only true psychological cannon there really is: No behavior is random. Which simply means that any human behavior–any–does not exist without purpose. Conscious or unconscious, doesn’t matter. Put differently, the potential for any behavior to exist is a function of two things: (1) the expectancy of a reinforcement (reward) for that behavior, and (2) the value of that reinforcement to the individual. We’re not talking about the quality of behavior, or the accuracy of the expectations, or even the real quality or consequences of the reinforcements, but it’s still the law.

    Since SOS, we’ve had 4 coaches, 3 of which were over their heads in the head coach role. Zook was by far the most unprepared and failed on his own merits. Muschamp was experienced and in fact the “head-coach-in-waiting” at Texas when he took the job. But there is a huge difference in being an excellent assistant coach in the Big-12, even at a premier school, and taking on the head coach job in the SEC at a premier school. In my world, it’s like suddenly being a brigade commander when all you’ve done is be a staff officer and maybe a company commander. Muschamp also failed on his own merits (and will likely develop into a fine head coach down the road). Mac came from an elite SEC program in a key assistant position, performed in an environment where it’s very difficult to fail, had a satisfactory head coaching job at a Mid-Major program, and should have been ready, correct? Not so fast. He convinced himself–and us–that he was ready. But he wasn’t. He got some breaks and did OK at first, but the bottom fell out and he was exposed not only to us, but more importantly to himself. Right so far? Were Nick Saban not such a gentleman, I’m pretty sure he could provide an answer.

    So yes indeed….Robbie is correct, I’m PDC (pretty damn confident) of that. He self sabotaged. The way he did it took care of his family, and at the same time got him out of all the pressure to perform when he knew that he wouldn’t be able to. If you think it through, it’s possible that Urban Myer did the same thing, just much more adaptively and thus left with his reputation intact.
    ………………the use of any psychobabble in the foregoing missive was purely unintentional…………..

  16. I absolutely think that Mac wanted out of Gainesville. I read someplace that he almost took the Oregon job before the start of last season. Only he knows for sure. Mullen is an infinitely better fit for UF, so it all worked out for the best. Wherever Mac coaches next, I hope that team is on UF’s schedule so Mullen’s Gators beat them.

  17. Any body that does not brush his teeth and does not were sucks and complain about UF facilities is a moran.
    how would a recruit think about this man first impression. The administration should not hire a man like that.

  18. Jim McElwain hit Gainesville like one of the wild west’s hit a bank. In and out with a sack full of greenbacks. The man knew he couldn’t coach or recruit in the SEC and he was also about to run out of the talent that the previous mistake had brought to Florida Field. Good riddance to bad rubbish and please let this be the last article about Jim McElwain.

  19. Robbie, I believe you are right. I think he was looking for a big payday at a major school and saw UF as his answer. Even to the point on contributing to his own buyout (as I remember) at CSU. He never seemed to fit the school or the state. I was never comfortable with him being fully committed to the GATORS. Always vague remarks and little energy. He was a mistake, but now it is time to move on.

  20. Gator fans having fun piling it on but McElwain gets the last laugh on the way to the bank.

    Robbie, perhaps you should try presenting BOTH sides of the argument BEFORE performing the analysis and THEN formulate a conclusion to either support OR reject your theory. Otherwise, you are no better than the partisan CNN and Fox News. It’s purely for entertainment rather than serious objective journalism.

    • Here are some possible questions to answer in your analysis:

      1. How well was McElwain recruiting at the time of his demise?
      2. Were there any mitigating circumstances for a bad offense and losses?
      3. Did the hurricane and cancelled game affect the development of the team and the season?
      4. How did suspensions, injuries, and depth issues affected their performance?
      5. Why did he go with the raw and inexperienced Franks instead of LDR or Zaire? Why did he stick with Franks when things weren’t going well?
      6. Why did he stick with Nuss?
      7. When under high duress and negative emotional situations, what percentage of the general population would inadvertently blurb out something they would regret later? Was he protecting his loved ones and players by not being more transparent with the death threats?
      8. Was he underappreciated after winning 2 SEC titles and SEC COY?
      9. Did Stricklin have an ulterior motive because his subordinate was publicly calling out the administration on facilities and the slow pace it was moving? What would have been the consequences if he hadn’t pushed facilities the way he did?
      10. Does the Gainesville Sun have an ulterior motive writing this piece?

      • On a side note – Why hasn’t there been an outcry from the media and Gator Nation on the Facilities Master Plan? How long have they been working on it? A typical university has a whole department in charge of master planning. Even if they don’t have an existing Master Plan to modify (which I highly doubt), it doesn’t take long to develop one. It’s a living plan that continually evolves. We are not talking about actual design. Rough estimates of schedule and costs to start. Then sharpen the pencils as the plan is developed. The rough estimate is based on historical figures of $X/SF from similar structures. Scheduling is also based on historical experience. X weeks to solicit a design/build firm + X weeks to select and negotiate + X weeks to design + weeks for construction. Have the plan in place contingent on having funding available by a certain date. Then it’s up to Stricklin and the University to go get the funds by that date. Adjust the schedule and cost as necessary as events emerge.

        • You know Sly this is an excellent point. How many of us in the general public actually knew over the last 6 or 7 years that UF had run in place for a decade with facilities investments while the rest of the conference was taking off into space? I didn’t see that reported on a whole heck of a lot. Again, this has to go to the next level on the org chart. Was this a Foley foible, or was he getting a directive from administration to cut costs? Either way, what’s the excuse for a school with one of largest athletic budgets in America to have facilities that didn’t evolve a great deal since the days of Charley Pell (God rest his soul, he was a rainmaker)..

          • I think it has been reported that Foley was reluctant to take on debt. However, Stricklin is not as reluctant based on what he did at MSU. He is supposedly good at fund raising but we have not heard what kind of progress he’s made since he’s been onboard. If he can’t sell naming rights to some wealthy donors, he can sell some school bonds. I’m sure he probably needs to get that approved through the Board of Trustees or the like. Nevertheless, it does seem we are running in place and there hasn’t been sufficient cry to spur a sense of urgency. Speaking of the Board, why don’t they ask Stricklin to update them on the Master Plan, the long range Capital Improvement Plan, the strategy to get them funded. That should be a public meeting based on the Sunshine Laws. I’m sure Robbie would be happy to go and write up a story about it.

          • We want to know the scope of each project in the master plan, the sequence of the projects, attach the begin and end dates to each project, and attach cost estimates for each project. How long does it take to come up with that?

          • Better yet. Why doesn’t the Gainesville Sun ask for that in a Freedom of Information request rather than being satisfied with Stricklin’s answer to “stay tuned”? We have been tune in to static or crickets for quite some time.

      • I think all the mitigating factors are well known and accounted for by now, Sly. I know from your history of posts that you always try to examine both sides of a question before you comment, fair and balanced, and that you know what the hell you’re talking about when you do comment. But I think what Robbie is opening up here is not sensationalized journalism, but a fair question as to some very unusual behavior out of a head coach.

        That said, you make some well taken points there, bud….sure glad I’m never going to have to argue with you in front of an audience!

          • Naw……..truth is, just about everything we discuss about a matter such as this is purely subjective, Sly. Beyond that, scientifically anyway, theories are never “proved”, they are only “disproved”. And then only by rigorous hypothesis testing at that.

            But that’s what I like about your posts…..you make every effort to be as objective as possible in your comments, putting logic before emotions. I just wouldn’t call it bad journalism is all–actually we all batted this topic around late last fall, before Robbie linked it to an ongoing project and weighed in.

  21. It’s the off season. Robbie’s gotta fill some space. Don’t hammer him for the speculation, he’s just trying to get reader reaction, which he did. He admitted at the outset his theory wasn’t based on verifiable evidence. With that said, I don’t agree with his theory. Getting fired from a high-profile job like UF with no clear history of success (don’t give me the 2 SEC east titles, I will offer you his games against Alabama and FSU) more or less ensures you will never get a similar position again. Will Muschamp got a second chance because he got within 1 game of potentially playing for an NC at UF, and his proven record of recruiting and coaching up defensive players. Mac just hit his “Peter Principle” – he was promoted to the level of his incompetence. He didn’t purposefully tank, he just sucked at this level. If he was so highly thought of, his name would be batted around for consideration as an HBC at other Power 5 schools. I hear birds chirping, but no talk about that. He will end up as an OC at some mid level school or a 3rd-tier position coach for some NFL team. He’s the worst HBC Florida has had since Raymond Wolf in the 1940’s. He makes Muschamp and Zook look like the Bear. It was Foley’s worst call in his 20+ year tenure here.

  22. “So, basically, McElwain earned financial security and got out of a job he no longer liked by failing and lying.” What a stand up guy. Why is Mac’s name even mentioned anymore? Can’t the Sun writers just move on and leave that negative, depressing chapter of Gator football in the past? Dan Mullen is the Gator coach now and a damn good one so far. There’s optimism about the football program now so can we never mention the last two losers who held the job again? And no articles about Don Devoe either!

  23. That Mac was smiling after we were beat down by the Poodles isn’t evidence that he WANTED to get canned, it could just mean he was relieved, it had already been reported that morning that he was to be fired.
    That Mac couldn’t put together a coherent(“and yet”,” I’ll tell ya what”, “isn’t this cool?”) sentence is proof to me that he’s not smart enough to hatch such a plan. He was losing and wanted people to feel sorry for him, so he lied, giving Stricklin the chance to correct Foley’s THIRD bad hire for UF fiotball. Mac just fell into a pile of dung and still came out rich.
    We need to give Coach Mullen time to correct Mac’s recruiting/conditioning/toughness failures for this team. He has to show that UF will be well coached for the first time since 2009 to get the four and five star recruits that should go to UF that are going to Bammer, GA and scUM right now.

  24. There are many theories as to why. But, No honest Gator can ever say they were excited when Mac was hired. I BLAME FOLEY. Ticket boy NEVER made a big time hire (all by himself) with the exception of a young Billy D. And we paid him $1M a year…and in affect are still paying this loser for Mac and Chump.

  25. I think Mac ultimately wanted money to start a non-profit fighting to end Toothism. He’s proud of his gross, crooked yellow teeth and wants everyone in the world to redefine their standards of beauty to accept people with deformed teeth and terrible brushing habits. Now, he has that money and begin his true life’s work, beginning with having an artists create a series of portraits of his teeth to be displayed in The Museum of the Weird Losers. One day, perhaps he will be remembered for helping America stride toward dental tolerance.

    Until then, he will just be remembered as the tragic clown of football.

  26. Water seeks its own level. It’s that simple.
    McElwain certainly had the smarts to be O Coordinator for Saban at Bama.
    Where did he go from there?- Colorado State, closer to home in Montana and an easier league where no one plays D and he dominated with his O.
    When he joined the Gators the SEC East was in transition and the Gators were “good enough
    ” to win the SEC East. He found a comfort zone. Unfortunately he was not good enough for Bama.
    Which was outside his comfort zone.
    His comfort zone was not in the high heat of the SEC kitchen year in and year out. Water found it’s own level.

  27. Andreu is probably right. Just thought of something else. Jeremy Foley hired both McElwain and White before he got out of Dodge — two absolute, unquestionable pieces of s–t! Never trusted this guy – he looks like a Kennedy! Did Foley leave on bad terms?

  28. Partially buying it. Why? Because I don’t think Mac is a chess player. He’s a checkers player.
    He was realing and on downward spiral when he made the “death threat” comments. But after he did he saw the board and made his best move. It was at that time that he saw winning as losing (i.e. getting fired). Yes, he wanted out. I still remember that smile on his face as he walked with off Florida Field with his wife for the last time. It said “I got mine, FU UF”

  29. It doesn’t matter. He was the worst coach UF has had since Raymond Wolf in the 1940’s. Yes, read the late great Tom McEwen’s book. Doug Dickey was much better, as hard as that is to believe. Outside of a “fourth and dumb”, and trying to turn John Reaves into an option quarterback, he had a couple of teams that were arguably top 5 in talent in the NCAA. He just tripped over his own foot. McElwait (yes, I spelled that right) never got there on his own. He road the coattails of Will’s amazing defensive studs to get 2 SEC East titles (tallest midget) and kicked to the curb the best offensive player we have had since Tim Tebow (W, Grier). Nice Job, coach..I’m sorry, I didn’t hear where you next head coaching assignment was..maybe the Central Belarussian Football league?? BUTTER