UF’s Stricklin on McElwain’s departure: ‘This is more than just wins and losses’

Florida Athletic Director Scott Stricklin. [Kaila Jones/Correspondent]


What seemed inevitable Saturday night became reality Sunday.

Jim McElwain’s coaching career is over at Florida.

The embattled head football coach and the school agreed to part ways Sunday, UF athletic director Scott Stricklin announced Sunday afternoon.

“This morning, I met with Coach McElwain and also began conversations for the first time with his agent, Jimmy Sexton, regarding Coach Mac’s future here at Florida,” Stricklin said Sunday night. “The end result of those conversations is that Coach Mac and the UAA have mutually agreed to part ways.

“I appreciate Coach McElwain, the way he has handled this. We had constructive conversations. I like coach Mac. I think he is a good man. I want to thank him for his time and his effort serving as our football coach.”

 Stricklin said UF and McElwain have reached an agreement in principle after negotiating McElwain’s $12.76 million buyout Sunday, but that it has not been signed yet. Stricklin would not reveal the terms, but it likely means a reduced settlement. McElwain was making $4.5 million a year and his contract ran through 2022.

Defensive coordinator Randy Shannon, the former head coach at the University of Miami, has been named interim head coach for the remainder of the season. The Gators have four games remaining in the regular season.

“I’m confident Coach Shannon and our staff will provide guidance our program needs these next four weeks,” Stricklin said. “We have four games left. We are not giving up on this season. I know our young men are ready to go out and get on the field this coming Saturday at Missouri and represent the Gators.”

McElwain was not available to the media Sunday and did not have a chance to talk to his players. Stricklin, however, said he will have that opportunity.

McElwain sent messages to his players and UF and its fans on Twitter.

 “Thank you for working hard and giving it your all. I love each and every one of you,” he said to the players.

To the school and the fans he said, “I want to thank the University of Florida, the fans, the alumni for the opportunity to have been your head coach. My family and I will move forward and appreciate the good memories.”

Stricklin met with the players late Sunday afternoon after many of them had read the news on social media.

“They were quiet, but they made eye contact and they shook my hand on the way out of the room,” Stricklin said. “That was a good conversation.”

Stricklin said a national search for McElwain’s replacement begins this morning.

“Our search for the next head coach at the University of Florida begins immediately,” Stricklin said. “I will do everything I can to keep the search process and the details of the search process confidential. We all understand rumors tend to run rampant in these situations and because of that a lot of what people read and what you hear will not be accurate.”

Stricklin said Florida is an easy sell and he will find the right coach because it’s one of the best jobs in college football.

“If you want to work in the best athletic department in the country and have access to some of the best talent in the country and have some of the best support in the country and play and coach for the best fans in the country, you want to be at the University of Florida,” he said.

“This is a place where you can compete for championships at the highest level. I saw a quote that Tim Tebow made this week. He said, ‘You don’t go to Florida to compete, you go to Florida to win.’ I saw Coach Mac’s press conference last night. He called it a dream job. I think this is a dream job for somebody.”

  McElwain’s departure comes the day after the Gators were blown out by Georgia 42-7 and six days after McElwain stunned the athletic department — and just about everyone else — with his unsubstantiated claims of death threats being made to players and families.

 The process that led to McElwain’s departure started Monday, when McElwain made claims that players and family have received death threats. He refused to give specifics.

In a meeting later that day with Stricklin and other members of the administration, McElwain also would not be specific about his claims, prompting UAA to release a statement saying McElwain would not provide any further details.

That drew nationwide speculation that McElwain was not being truthful. He apologized for his comments Wednesday, but again would not reveal any details about the alleged threats.

The problem did not go away for McElwain.

Only hours before Saturday’s kickoff in Jacksonville there was a post on Twitter claiming UF and McElwain’s agent, Jimmy Sexton, were negotiating a buyout. Stricklin sent out a statement soon after denying that any negotiations were going on, but did not in any way back his head coach.

McElwain learned of the report shortly before the team meal Saturday morning and informed his players, who came out flat against No. 3 Georgia and fell behind 21-0 midway through the first quarter.

Stricklin said the decision to seek McElwain’s departure was reached at some point during the week, and that it had more to do than just the remarks about death threats and the recent performances on the field. It was the result of an ongoing evaluation of McElwain and how he fits in the overall athletic program.

“You’re constantly evaluating your program,” Stricklin said. “I don’t know that there was any one seminal moment, but it just seemed like this was the time to do it.

“You know, this is more than just wins and losses, and I’ll just leave it at that. … You are constantly evaluating and there are things that happen while you are doing the evaluation that sometimes make you ask questions. I don’t know that you’re ever completely surprised in these situations.”

After the 42-7 loss Saturday, McElwain said he understood why he was in the tenuous position he suddenly found himself.

“Nothing in this world surprises me,” he said. “I know what I was brought here to do. We haven’t been good on offense. I get it. We’ve won a few games, but we haven’t won enough, haven’t won a championship. That’s real. That’s life.

“That is the business, and I take full responsibility for all of it.”

In McElwain’s two-plus seasons, the Gators won the SEC’s Eastern Division twice and are 22-12 overall and 16-6 in league play.

McElwain was hired by then-athletic director Jeremy Foley after the 2014 season and was brought to UF to generate a productive offense that had fallen dormant under defensive-minded coach Will Muschamp.

But over the past three seasons, the Gators have regressed on offense, due in large part to inconsistent quarterback play and a lack of playmakers in the passing game.

Stricklin will keep the coaching search private, but there are some obvious potential targets, including Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen, Iowa State’s Matt Campbell, Syracuse’s Dino Babers, Central Florida’s Scott Frost, SMU’s Chad Morris and Memphis’ Mike Norvell.

Stricklin came to UF from Mississippi State, where he worked with Mullen, the former Florida offensive coordinator under Urban Meyer.

“I want to be really careful, because I want to be respectful of their situation,” Stricklin said. “They’ve got a good season going. Dan, I would just say, I enjoyed working with Dan. And I think he would probably say the same.

“Dan can be direct and I can be direct and sometimes we had direct conversations, like you would anybody that you worked with closely. He’s done a really nice job there. And as an alum of that school, I’m proud of the job he’s done at my alma mater.”

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or robbie.andreu@gvillesun.com. Also check out Andreu’s blog at Gatorsports.com.



    • leaving Shannon in place who 1st year as DC the Gators have been terrible on defense as compared to the last 10 years is a disaster. Leaving Nuss in place is the greater disaster. these 2 men are responsible for what we are expericing this year and McElwain’s only problem was that he left both of them in place! NOW WE HAVE THE 2 DUDS WITHOUT McElwain, no real change and not looking good for Stricklins abilities! couldnt he see the problem and have gotten rid of at least Nuss with mcElwain?

      • This is probably correct. Think McElwain would not terminate Nuss and it’s his hire and his responsibility and may have cost him his job. Whoever the new coach is will for sure bring in his own OC and DC. Shannon’s D this year has not been impressive.

  1. You’re gonna get someone you probably don’t know much about, like the coach from Iowa St or Memphis, a coach who is having moderate success now with “potential”, you know, like McElwain was a few years ago.

  2. If DM and his family really want this job, he is the right fit for our program, right now, and into the future. He knows UF! He knows the SEC! Florida needs an offensive coach period. We have enough talent and athletes in the sunshine state to continue putting dominant defenses and special teams out there.

  3. Chris Doering, a former Gator and now SEC analyst has been quite vocal and direct about how Gator recruiting/talent has dropped off significantly, I agree. Gonna take the next hire more than 2 years to build a competitive/winning program.

  4. We need someone with high ceiling. Frost of Norville both are going and loaded with potetial. Frost would be the better of the two of we can get him. I certainly think he will be top candidate for any opening. Babers could also be a candidate. No on Kelly, Mullen, Gruden, Leach, Strong, Venerables

    Time will tell

  5. We need someone with high ceiling. Frost of Norville both are going and loaded with potetial. Frost would be the better of the two of we can get him. I certainly think he will be top candidate for any opening. Babers could also be a candidate. No on Kelly, Mullen, Gruden, Leach, Strong, Venerables

    Time will tell

  6. At least hire someone who can afford a pair of sox! No more goofballs please……Hire a coach who can control this program. Initiate discipline, keep players checked on and out of trouble. I know you can’t watch a kid 24/7, but it just seems with every misstep, hiccup and felony arrest it came as a complete surprise to the coaching staff. A good coach will know what is going on and then can hopefully recruit and sign the calibre of player that UF will be proud to have don Orange and Blue.

  7. We get Dan Mullen I’ll start the fire Mullen and Strickland webpage. Mullen is so so, he isn’t a great recruiter, has a flat personality and will be another Coach Mac. We need a home run hire and Dan isn’t it…

  8. Coaches are just like 5 star HS QB’s…until they get here you don’t know how they’re going to pan out. Sorry, but you just don’t know. Put the last 15 blue chip Gator QB’s on a board…how many were stars? Put the last 15 Gator coaches on there too…how many were very successful. It’s a dice roll.
    Good luck.

  9. Very glad Coach Shannon has agreed to be HC the remainder of the season. That’s a tough spot for Coach Shannon & the staff. Thank you Coach Shannon. Hope we can keep the recruits we have in this 2018 class as it’s an excellent class imo. Go Gators!

  10. As a Tennessee fan, I wish our AD would follow the lead of your AD and part ways with Jones, immediately, if not sooner. We should have let Jones go several weeks ago. His presence continues to be a drag on the team, the fan base and the season. It seems that keeping Coach Mac would have had the same effect on Florida, so kudo’s to your administration for having the sense and courage to cut ties and move forward. It seems like Scott Frost is the hot coaching prospect and I would be jealous if you guys get him.

  11. Believe it or not fellows Gator fans, we may end up with a worse coach than we had. It could be argued that we ended up with a worse coach than we had when we fired Muschamp. But in typical Gator fan fashion, we run all of our coaches off. Good or bad. McElwain is not nearly as bad of a coach as some people say. He won 2 east titles and beat Tennessee 2 out of 3, beat Georgia 2 of 3, and had a top 5 recruiting class coming in. I see people on here saying the next coach will need more than a couple years to get the talent in here he needs to win. First, that’s crap. We have the talent, the talent isn’t young but anyone who can’t see the young talent Mac has brought in like Malik Davis, Toney, Cleveland, Marco Wilson, C.J. Henderson, David Reese, etc is an idiot. But even if the next coach does need some time to build the program, like Muschamp did after Meyer left such a mess, or Mac needed after it had been several seasons since Florida was elite, he’s not going to get it!!! Gator fans will run him off before he gets a program built like he wants. Mac hasn’t been killed by injuries and suspensions. But Gator fans don’t care, just fire him the first time he doesn’t win the East. Gator fans will never give a decent coach a chance to build a winning program again. The only people who stand a chance here are Hall of Fame coaches who can win day one. And I don’t know of a coach in America who fits that description but wants to come deal with the BS they will have to deal with in Gainesville. We fired Muschamp and now he’s doing better at S Carolina than we are here. Now Mac is gone and there’s is a lot of criticism around the country for firing him. This program is a dumpster fire and it’s because of unrealistic expectations. Meyer and his family have been vocal about how they had a lot of bad experiences at Florida. Spurrier flat out called the fans out in his resignation speech about unrealistic expectations. He said winning used to be fun but “now it’s just a relief”. So, Spurrier left, at least in part, because of the unrealistic expectations. Meyer left because , at least in part, because of unrealistic expectations. Dan Mullen has made comments about how the fans at Florida have unrealistic expectations while he was here and after he left! Doubt he hasn’t any interest in Florida unless Stricklin, bing his friend, can sway him. Doesn’t matter who we get, Gator fans will want them fired anywhere from 2-6 years from the date of hire. Fans need to quit blaming coaches for the dumpsters fire this program is and look in the mirror.

    • You know who else wanted us to keep Mac? FSU, UGA, Tenn, etc. etc. etc. Is it unrealistic to want an offense ranked better than 100+? Is it unrealistic to expect a coach not to throw players and fans under the bus ? How about time management my 10 year old could handle? Florida fans don’t coach the team or recruit the players, coaches do, and Mac and Chump both sucked. Get a clue!

      • Wins and losses are all that matters. He was a winning coach. And not sure why Georgia it Tennessee would want us to get rid of Mac since he beat them more times than not! And you tell me to get a clue? But don’t take my word for it since I need a clue, take Spurrier, Meyer, and Mullen’s word for it. But I guess you know more than them. Wow.

        • So you want to talk wins and losses? OK, your “winning coach” had 4 losses each of his first two years and 4 losses already this year. He lost 1 out of every 3 games! Is that acceptable for a program with our recruiting base and resources? Shouldn’t a coach show improvement at some point? Fans didn’t call for his head either of the first two years, and even this year the great majority supported Mac, just not Nuss. We were patient, that is until he accused the fanbase of death threats, which apparently wasn’t true. Fans didn’t create the dumpster fire; they haven’t coached a single player, made a single play call or recruited a single player. You’re conflating what SOS and Meyer said about expectations with wins and losses, when expectations are the result of wins and losses, not the cause of wins and losses. Finally, it’s funny how you bring up winning 2 of 3 against UGA and UT, but fail to mention losing 2 of 3 to LSU, or getting killed 2 out of 2 against FSU, Bama and Michigan…

          • “Up above the canyon walls his red eyes did glow,
            oh my God Lord, it’s the Great White Buffalo!”

  12. Fork out the money, Hire someone that isn’t a flavor of year(s) Buyout Kirby Smart or someone that has been in the SEC or tempt a newly retired coach. This school has been spinning their tires way too long and if they hire a another 1 hit wonder we’ll be in the same place a few years from now.