(Updated at 7:14 p.m.) Many in Gator Nation are angry, frustrated and spewing hate over the way Florida’s season has played out so far. And Jim McElwain is seeing and feeling the ugliest side of it, the UF football coach said Monday.
McElwain said death threats have been made against some Florida players and families by disgruntled fans.
“I think it’s a pretty good lesson for the way things are,” McElwain said. “There’s a lot of hate in this world. A lot of anger, and yet, it’s freedom to show it. The hard part is, obviously, when the threats are against your own players. Death threats to your families. The ill-will that’s brought upon out there.
“I think it’s really a pretty good testament to what’s going on out there nationally. A lot of angry people. In this business, we’re the ones who you take the shots at, and that’s the way it is.”
McElwain would not go into specifics as to how the threats have been made and who exactly has received them. He said law enforcement has not been made aware of the threats.
When asked if he or his family had received threats, McElwain said, “Let’s move on (to something else).”
McElwain was asked if he is shocked by the level of the vitriol coming from some of the fans.
“No,” he said. “Here’s the one thing, you’re in the business, that’s all part of it. When it’s directed toward your players, when it’s directed to families, wives, that kind of thing … and yet at the same time they know what they signed up for as well. That’s part of the business.”
McElwain met with school officials later in the day, but did not reveal any new information.
“The University Athletic Association takes the safety of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and families very seriously,” UAA spokesman Steve McClain said in a release. “Our administration met with Coach McElwain this afternoon and he offered no additional details.”
Sophomore linebacker Kylan Johnson said the players are trying to block out the threats and all the negative noise that is coming from disgruntled fans.
“We’re not really worried about that,” he said. “We’re just going to keep moving forward. We’ve got Coach Mac’s back. We’re just going to continue to be positive moving forward.
“It’s kind of hard to avoid it because of all the social media. But you’ve just got to ignore it and just stay positive.”
The players are keeping their focus on football, sophomore safety Chauncey Gardner Jr. said.
“We don’t care (about what the fans are saying), we’re playing football,” he said. “You can say all those things you want about (McElwain’s) family, about this team, we’re playing football, we’re not worried about outside. That’s not going to win you a ball game, so we’re focused on what we’ve got to do to win football games.”
The Gators are a disappointing 3-3 and coming off close home SEC losses to LSU and Texas A&M heading into Saturday’s game against undefeated and No. 3 Georgia in Jacksonville. The offense continues to struggle and the defense has failed to make crucial stops that might have made a difference in a one-point loss to LSU and a two-point loss to Texas A&M.
McElwain and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier have been a main target of the anger and frustration on social media.
Despite the 3-3 start and all the negativity coming with it, McElwain said the program continues to head in a positive direction.
“We’ve got a hell of a group (of freshmen) coming in and we’re playing a lot of young guys right now that are playing pretty darned hard and I think have a chance to be really good players,” McElwain said. “Our main focus is what we did in the bye week now moving forward to go play Georgia.”
McElwain dismissed a report from a national writer last week that said McElwain feels under appreciated at UF and could bolt to Oregon State.
“No,” McElwain said. “It’s interesting. It’s that time of year. And those are things that, you know, people throw out.”
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Andreu’s blog at Gatorsports.com.