Dooley: Hopefully, lesson learned for McElwain

Florida football coach Jim McElwain talks to the media during his weekly news conference Wednesday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

Jim McElwain walked into his usual Wednesday afternoon news briefing wearing his usual Gator windshirt and his usual Gator baggy shorts knowing that he wasn’t going to get the usual questions.

His self-inflicted firestorm had been raging for more than 48 hours, burning a wide path that gobbled up everything not bolted down.

So he knew that at least half of the questions would be about something other than Florida-Georgia.

“I understand, that’s the news,” he said.

McElwain’s death-threat blurtation Monday had come soaring back at him like a boomerang with poisoned fangs, causing a media feeding frenzy on steroids that would not dissipate quietly.

It didn’t help that on Wednesday morning, McElwain offered little news and more confusing rhetoric.

“I feel bad sometimes for being open and being honest, and yet, at the same time, I’ve seen this movie and I understand it,” he said. “If it gets to a point we’ll go from there.”

He also said he would offer more detail “when it becomes unmanageable.”

It didn’t become “unmanageable” or different by 5:30 Wednesday afternoon, but the McElwain who stood before us was contrite and humbled.

Because he screwed up.

And that’s the message he gave to his team on the perfectly-chilled practice field.

Hey, guys, you know how I stress to you not to let the noise get to you and pull the shutters on the outside world?

That goes for me, too.

And I blew it.

Big time.

The Florida coach has a penchant for saying what’s on his mind before his thoughts are always full formed and are still raw and unfinished. Maybe that’s why he’s so guarded at times when we ask him about the starting left tackle or what he had for breakfast — because he tends to blurt out what’s on his mind if he doesn’t take a deep breath first.

And it has had him in trouble before.

Just not like this.

This was different for a lot of reasons.

This was an inference to a life-and-death matter. This was more serious than football.

And then the narrative changed before Monday was over.

It went from the sorry state of the lunatic fringe of fans to the red flag that was Florida’s statement about his comments.

The takeaway from UF’s brusk statement was that there is a rift between the head coach and the athletic department. Certainly, there have been some issues because McElwain has called out both the department and his fan base in moments of unfortunate candor.

But it’s not like athletic director Scott Stricklin and McElwain have to be seated at opposite ends of the table at UF functions. There is no rift, no animosity.

Was Stricklin happy when he was blindsided by McElwain’s comments Monday about death threats? Take a guess.

McElwain’s first mistake was to say something publicly. His bigger mistake was not to sprint to the second floor of the stadium and explain it to his boss.

That’s a part of his personality that needs to get better. It probably never crossed his mind.

His is a tight inner circle. He is a circle-the-wagons coach at a school that is all-for-one. It’s us against the world even if you are all rooting for the same result.

Even after McElwain’s first misstep in this matter, he figured it would be handled inside the locked doors of the football offices.

But the athletic department has to be deeply imbedded inside that circle of trust.

The football players are not the only people under the University Athletic Association’s umbrella and think about other coaches or student-athletes explaining death threats to parents.

Not a good look.

Nobody was ever getting fired over this mistake. But every coach on the campus is always being evaluated and this error goes in Mac’s file.

He made a mistake, compounded it and came back to finally own it way late, but not too late.

Which is why I asked at the end of the news conference Wednesday of the coach who is always talking about “teachable moments” if this was one for the UAA’s highest-paid employee.

“There’s no doubt about it,” McElwain said.

We’ll see. He may have closed up an open wound, but we can still see the fresh stitches.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at And follow at


  1. Why do we always call for a new Coach. Coach Mac is doing a great job. Yes, we all want to win. But you have to look at the circumstances. You take the Number 1 wide Receiver and the number 1 Running back off the team and along with a RS freshman Quarter back, and all teams will struggle. Look at FSU–they lost only the QB and look at what has happened. Just Chill with the fire coach mess. We have a lot of young players contributing. The future look bright. Just cheer on the Gators, welcome the new recruits. Coach Mac will win a National Championship in the future–we just need to be supportive.

    • Add me to the list. Not at all happy with how things are curretnly going and have major concerns of the capability of Nuss to call plays, but do not see any reason to dump this staff. There needs to be some changes, but I am hoping Mac sees that as much as all of us. If we continue down this road and the O play doesn’t drastically improve, then maybe I’m wrong.

    • Well said, Allen Waters. I’m guessing that most of the vitriol is coming from young, immature fans whom are simply spoiled rotten and have unrealistic expectations. It is not uncommon these days for fans that lack the life experience necessary to grasp the big picture to expose their inner demons in public forums. Further, by allowing themselves to become emotionally invested in the outcome of events over which they have no influence, fans often become subject to profound disappointment after those events do not reflect the expected results. Focusing on the most recent events (last game or two) discounts both historical considerations prior to the recent event as well as to future events which results in the lack of perspective mentioned above. Since these bold, self-righteous experts on coaches can’t put on a helmet and pads or actually coach (and few ever have), they become frustrated at their exposed impotence and lash out at whoever the coach is.
      When it all comes together for Coach McElwain and the Gators over the next two years and he finally gets his young players much needed experience and develops them to the level required to navigate the Gators’ difficult schedule, many fans will still simply double down on their unrealistic expectations when the Gators eventually lose another game. The rest of us can still enjoy this wonderful form of entertainment by tuning out the immature temper tantrums. Go Gators!

      • Careful there Mark, don’t say anything negative about the posters here or the likes of Trooper and Tunaboat just might label you a ‘psycho’ like they have me. Eggshells my man, eggshells.

        • I never used the label “psycho”. You chose that for yourself. I was referring to the bizarre references to beatings, black masks, and seal clubbing, as a way to chastise others for being negative. Your three part rant in reply to the irony of you going more negative than the posters you were criticizing goes a long way toward proving your self-diagnosis. A self-diagnosis that you have repeated so many times that one is left to ponder why.

      • Mark, that was condescending and missed a salient point. Every fan becomes “emotionally invested in the outcome of events over which they have no influence”: that is the very definition of being a fan!

        Criticize younger fans for lack of life experience, but older -ahem- fans like myself with plenty of years can recognize a bad actor more readily. Mac has shown no systemic improvement in team or temperment. He has had the “aw shucks” corner led by Grandma Dooley scolding us less mature voices, who even tried to help him push his tacky condiment on the fans.

        I entered this year as a solid Mac supporter. What I have seen is mumble-mouthed non-answers, horrible game management – YES, FROM A FAN’S PERSPECTIVE – a really insulting money grab, and then what is starting to stink like confabulation over unsubstantiated threats. I don’t care if he does win Sat, or might win a future championship. I don’t trust him, don’t like him, and think he is an embarassment. Can’t wait to see him gone.

        Yeah, that is some emotional investment.

  2. Taking the position here that Mac was truthfully referring to something(s) that did in fact happen, albeit ever so vaguely spoken. The error in judgement occasioned by not referring it to campus LE, as well as not notifying the higher HQ is, however, troubling. That said, the immediate blood-in-the-water response by sports media, for me, was the most disturbing event of all.

    • Agreed. I’m getting tired of the media, and especially sports writers, overreacting about things and telling me how I should feel. They just don’t like Mac because he doesn’t give them enough access. It is evidenced in how the writers on this website talk about this coaching staff vs the previous one. It was obvious they were buddy buddies with Muschamp, they even said as much at times, and would never write a negative article about him. Even a year after he was gone we were getting defensive articles about him. Against Mac however, the gloves are completely off. I’m not saying the criticism isn’t deserved — because it is — but we definitely did not get this honest reporting with the previous guys.

      • I’m honestly having trouble at this point remembering what was or wasn’t said about the last coach, TJ. What I do know is that Muschamp was “head coach in waiting” at Texas, and was considered a steal by Florida since Mack Brown was getting ready to retire. I remember that meme being picked up by the sports media through his first season. What a “steal” that turned out to be, huh? I can’t really say if the Florida media has been fair to Coach Mac or not…..seems to me that Pat Dooley is the most balanced of all…..or else I just like his writing style so much that I overlook some things…..but now that this mainstream journalistic idea of “if it bleeds it leads” hysteria has itself leeched into the sports media as well, in general? I’m afraid I’m ready about to hit the mute button here too.

  3. A long obvious satire piece about Dooley currying coach favor and writing a free ad for Mac’s Jerk Sauce was removed. It was certainly topical, making fun of Dooley’s kid gloves.

    What’s the matter, it was so obviously satire, and no profanity…are you really so cowardly you need to censor a joke?

      • Slander? Wildly impossible narrative to make a point through humor is satire, not slander. It was grossly inappropriate for this site to run a free ad for Mac’s Jerk Sauce and disguise it as news. The tone of this piece is in line with that, and deserved poking. This is a thin-skinned, hand wringing bunch. And anytime there’s a chance to jab former Coach Chest Pain/Family Time, we should all enjoy it.

  4. This guy is a disaster. He is unfit to lead a major college program. Its bad enough to suffer through watching the team he has fielded stink up the place. Now, we have to be embarrassed on the national stage because he cannot control his mouth. He is arrogant and I am quite tired of his flippant way of answering questions. He has failed to develop the talent he has, and the team is infiltrated with felon criminals. I knew we were in trouble when he got off the plane when hired in his flip flops. What a loser. He and Nuss should be terminated.

  5. Sad state of affairs that is Gator football right now. Clearly the wrong guy is in charge of the football program. We won’t get better until we make a great hire for HBC. This experiment with Mac has been going on for 3 years and we may not even make any low-level bowl this year. It’s clear that we’re well on our way to being another Kentucky with Mac in charge.

    • Like I said before, thank God the intronet wasn’t around in the Galen Hall days, or God forbid the Chuck Pell debacle. Give ’em hell Pell! And again, maybe it’s because I’m an old dude and have ridden the Gator rollercoaster for more than half a century and I’ve seen down, I’ve seen Gator low, I’ve seen Gator glory, I’ve seen it all. So Gator Nation, roll with it. It’s college football and it’s the nature of the beast. But don’t let the down side consume you and turn you into the torch and pitchfork mass that I see on these forums every day.
      I prefer to get so excited that it’s hard to sleep on the Friday night before Georgia in Jacksonville. To think back to all the times we were supposed to get our butts handed to us by the rabid Dawgs only to strut back to the truck with that silly grin barking at the red and black the whole way, waving my freshly printed score card, many of which still hang in my garage, always reminding me that that’s why we play ’em. You just never know Gator brethren, you just never know.
      Now settle down, try to put this chapter behind you and get ready for another slobberknocker in Jax.


    • I am numbers kind of guy and unfortunately Mac’s numbers tell a tale of woe. In most cases his numbers are worse that Muschamp’s. He is clearly not the man for the job.

      UF under Jim McElwain, 2015-present (national rank)

      Scoring: 23.6 ppg (No. 108)

      Passer rating: 125.95 (No. 87)

      TD/INT ratio: 1.45 (No. 93)

      Yards per pass attempt: 7.05 (No. 82)

      Yards per rush: 3.77 (No. 104)

      Rushing TDs: 41 (No. 101)

      Sacks allowed: 93 (seventh worst)

      • One number your analysis has left out is the number of starters/players suspended or injured during the 3 years Mac has been head coach. Take that number and try to comprehend the impact it would have on the extremely thin roster lacking any offensive talent or depth left behind by Mushcamp. Another number I’d like to see is the amount of coaches who would have success with that amount of players taken away from them with a team that had 10 wins in the previous 2 seasons before taking over. Here’s a number for you, 1. That’s the number of players preseason #2 national title favorite FSU lost and is now 2-4. You know the team up North that has been bringing in multiple top 5 classes over the last few years and has far more depth than the Gators? You and a lot of other fans need to step into reality Ellor and quit expecting miracles, cause you’ll always be disappointed.

        • I am not expecting miracles. Step into reality you say. The reality is we stink. You are so quick to offer up excuses for a coaching staff that is clearly in way over their heads, And given the obscene salaries that they are being paid the fan base and the school deserves more. And you like to hold up those two SEC east trophies. The only reason that we won those was because we were the best team in a very bad and weak conference. Look what happened to us when we played Bama. Shows you that we are light years away from challenging for the league championship. No excuses coach. Win of go home. So keep being a Sunshine Pumper and support this loser of a coaching staff.

      • I agree Ellor numbers don’t lie. This is suppose to be an offensive coach. He is not the answer regardless of what is happening with the FSU QB situation or their recruiting class. Fact is FSU won a championship with their current staff so a turnaround for them very possible. That is not the case for us. Florida struggles to score points against bad teams. Recruiting is about to get tougher in the state with UM coming up the ranks with M. Richt. Bad judgment on Grier, Nussmeir and death threats press conference is evidence enough for me that mediocrity is going to be the norm. Saban probably laughs his ass off every time people hire one of his ex coaches as a head coach. Saban is the reason that program is successful not all the coaches that come in and out of there.

        Let me throw a candidate again to lead the Gators back:
        He is 141-55 (71%) as a head coach. 8-6 in major bowls, 1 National Championship, 3-6 vs Saban, every season at his last school had top 15 recruiting classes and wants to coach again.

        The Mad Hatter is sitting there waiting for a call.

  6. I like Coach Mac & want him to be successful here at UF for a long time. We do have to produce a good offense & special teams(return game) along with our solid D. Right now we’re lacking in the O & return game. We’ll see how we end this season. I think Coach Mac handled the suspensions well. If we can finish well & have an excellent recruiting class we’ll be solid for next season. Go Gators!

  7. Hey guys, this is a simple issue…did he make it up or does it have some truth? Period. It doesn’t deserve a long review, its not complicated. Have there been death threats in any form? Coach, when did these happen and in what format? If you made a bad illustration of what you were TRYING to say, then admit it and clear it up, immediately.

    This should not be characterized as a “mistake”. His allegation/statement was crystal clear, right?

    He didn’t make a complicated allegation/statement!

  8. After thinking about it a lot in the past couple of days; he should have gone directly to his boss (Strickland) and let him decide whether to notify the law. Then let the law decide if the media should be notified. From Pat’s article we still don’t know if any of the above happened. We just know that Mac said he made an error in judgement by blurting out about the threats.
    Here it is Florida-Georgia week and if I’m distracted by this crap, you know the players are. I hate to be negative but we might be in trouble Saturday.

  9. This is not about disgruntled fans. When the head coach announces to the press there have been death threats to coaches, their families and our players that is a criminal threat. It should not be that coach’s prerogative to decide whether to pursue something so serious. Just as when a player is injured while at practice or during a game, depending on the injury they often have to be cleared in order to play again. The same is true when death threats have been made against the players. The head coach has a high responsibility in how he handles that knowledge and should do everything he can to keep these young players safe. When the coaches recruited these players, their parents entrusted them into their care. Coach Mac should have had the maturity to realize how much his surprise statement would affect Gator Nation. To our Gator football team I say, go out there on Saturday and let those Dawgs feel that Gator chomp!!! We’re pulling for you all the way!

  10. Coach Mac may be a nice guy and all. He won 2 SEC titles for Florida. The fact of the matter is majority of those wins were more like a flip of a coin, could have gone either way. Florida easily could have had loosing seasons each of the last 2 seasons. I am not sure how many fans would honestly admit that they enjoyed the way Florida won the past 2 seasons. Irony is he is supposed to be a Offensive minded coach. Right now there is no offense at Florida, period. I do agree there were injuries ,suspensions etc. He may not have recruited all 5 stars but still should be good enough to replace a injured or suspended player. Just looking at coach Mac, he does not appeal to be a coach that U of F deserves. I fell in love with UF football from the time Spurrier showed up on the sidelines in 1990 (my sophomore year at UCF) and crushed Okla State in season opener and never looked back. I have all the respect for coach Mac, but don’t think he is the right fit for Gators!

    I am UCF knight n a Gator fan. I hope UCF wont go after coach Frost :). Go gators and beat the Dawgs.

    • The 2006 national title team had multiple single digit wins that could’ve gone either way. Beat Tenn by 1, Georgia by 7, Vanderbilt by 6, needed a blocked field goal to beat USC, FSU by 7 and even lost to Auburn. Hell even the 96 champs lost to FSU. 08 champs lost to unranked Ole Miss. Welcome to college football where every week a game could go either way no matter how good you are. Mac should still be good enough to replace 20% of the team and almost double digit injured starters the last 2 seasons? How many 5 stars has FSU recruited the last 4 years? How many starters have they lost this season to make them a 2-4 team? How many 5 stars has Clemson recruited? I mean hell they should’ve blown out Syracuse even if they had to play their 3rd string QB, right? Unbelievable the way some people think.

      • I do agree with most of it that you mentioned. Yes, every week a game could go either way. Yes, Clemson lost to syr, yes FSU is 2-4, Yes SEC is competitive every week, yes 96 team lost to FSU, 08 champs lost ole miss. Losses is part of the game. My point is he is not able to improve offense being offensive coach.
        Same time I do believe, maybe offense would have much better had Will Grier stayed back at FL instead going to WVU.

        Nice to read your reply!

  11. Coach Mac may be a nice guy and all. He won 2 SEC titles for Florida. The fact of the matter is majority of those wins were more like a flip of a coin, could have gone either way. Florida easily could have had loosing seasons each of the last 2 seasons. I am not sure how many fans would honestly admit that they enjoyed the way Florida won the past 2 seasons. Irony is he is supposed to be a Offensive minded coach. Right now there is no offense at Florida, period. I do agree there were injuries ,suspensions etc. He may not have recruited all 5 stars but still should be good enough to replace a injured or suspended player. Just looking at coach Mac, he does not appeal to be a coach that U of F deserves. I fell in love with UF football from the time Spurrier showed up on the sidelines in 1990 (my sophomore year at UCF) and crushed Okla State in season opener and never looked back. I have all the respect for coach Mac, but don’t think he is the right fit for Gators!

    I am UCF knight n a Gator fan. I hope UF wont go after coach Frost :). Go gators and beat the Dawgs.

  12. Mac clarified nothing. Basically said I screwed up sharing this to the press. My take is he fudged the whole thing and wasn’t man enough to say so. The stink remains on Gator Nation. There will be those who have read the countless stories on this that has been plastered everywhere that Gator Fans are crazy aholes. He put needless fear into the mind of parents who are wondering, was my son targeted. In a very important game how can the team not be a bit distracted with this new drama. Furthermore without more clarification, if the AD fires him after this year or next, the perception will be Mac’s a victim and UF is dirt. His own lack of self discipline makes one wonder if this is past on to his own players with all their shenanigans. This just adds another reason why Mac is on the hot seat with Gator fans.

  13. Good or bad McElwain will be around for 2 more years unless he is fired for cause, but he does not seem the type to cross that line. However you can never say never, Bush at 93 is still getting in trouble. Any how, the SEC East now goes thru GA. Fl is stuck in the mud, Its back to the awful 80’s. We will see in a couple of years if the new AD has better talent for picking a football HC than his predecessor.

  14. Everyone knows it takes 8 years to turn a program around. 3 to drive it into the ground. 2 more to get your own players. And another 3 to successfully lobby the NCAA to grant Clarabelle eligibility. 2022 is our year!

  15. There is a critical point when any coach is terminated. It anormally revolves around recruiting along with coaching blunders, for most, with recruiting outlook the number one key. I tend to support the coach long before others abandon ship. in the past Dickey’s horrendous loss the FSU ,Zook’s loss to Mississippi State, Muscamp’s loss to Missouri seemed the time to end the coaches tenure. For Mcelwain, it’s stupidity. What is the purpose of revealing a death threat(or was he trying to draw sympathy). Recruiting? What will the mothers of potential Gators to be think about sending their sons to Florida. Why not just report it to the appropriate officials and then keep your mouth shut. What a dumb axx. You’re Fired.

  16. How long has he been an adult? A professional coach? A HBC? And he is still learning the basics? He worked for Saban and learned nothing. We hired an experienced head coach (or at least we were told that) and we need to educate him. He needs speaking lessons as well, and managing the media ones. Perhaps if he survives he will get the help he has needed for a long time.

  17. Teachable moment?? The man is 55 years old and is the CEO of Gator football, he’s not an 18 year old true freshman. Does someone need to remind him to wash his hands every time he goes pee-pee? Do you think he’ll be an adult by 60? How long do we have to wait?

    Come on. Any grown man with the common sense to come in out of the rain would have handled this better. Mac is in over his head.

  18. My family has always been Gators. Santa Claus brought me a # 11 Gator jersey in 1967, I was 7 years old. I have watched my grandmother make pineapple sandwiches and pack fried chicken for our many trips to Gainesville. I have sat with my parents watching the once a year game that was televised (before cable and ESPN) and listened to hundreds of games on the AM radio. I grew up with “Wait til next year” then at 31 years old the tide turned. I saw men in there fifties literally cry when Steve Spurrier ran onto Florida Field as the head coach. I’ve seen unbelievable wins and heartbreaking losses. It’s College Football. I have seen Gator Boosters pay off gambling debts at Jai Lai so a certain player could take the field. Thinking back it was kind of funny. What is not funny and frankly tragic is the lack of rules and discipline that has become the norm in sports. I for one am sick of it. It’s not okay. As far as our season this year, we are all suffering the consequences of bad choices. Cause and effect. I believe that was a huge wake up call to all of us. There is no way in hell I would wish being a college football coach on anyone. Having said that, the money is great. A head football coach is a CEO of a business. In the real word you would not keep employees who were involved in illegal activity. It seems to me that there is a bigger issue here and yes unfortunately it comes down to our CEO. I think Mac is a cool guy and I would love to sit by a “whiskey drinking fire” and chat with him. I don’t think he is the guy for this program. Is it unreasonable to ask for a program that is successful and not morally corrupt. We as GATORS should demand this. Would we all be singing a different tune if we were not 3-3. Yes we would, but it is time to re-evaluate.