McElwain visits practice to say goodbye

University of Florida's Running Back Mark Thompson takes a breather after running through a foot drill during practice Monday. Thompson, a senior, was asked to step up his game and contribute more to the team by Interim Head Football Coach Randy Shannon as they practiced in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium Monday afternoon. [Doug Engle Ocala-Star-Banner]

At the end of his first day not being Florida’s football coach, Jim McElwain stepped onto Florida Field for one last time late Monday afternoon to say goodbye to his players.

McElwain came onto the field at the conclusion of the Gators’ practice and greeted the players who found out Sunday afternoon that he’s no longer their coach. There were no tears, but some hugs and then a few informal words from McElwain. Then he was gone.

“He told us he’s a Gator, he’s always going to be a Gator, and he still has love for us and if we need him he’s there,” senior safety Duke Dawson said. “Of course (it was good to have a chance to say goodbye). I had a relationship with Coach Mac. Him coming back and talking to the team, it was great to see because people thought he wasn’t going to come back.”

The players, like many others, found out about the split between McElwain and UF on social media throughout the day Sunday. They had a 5 p.m. meeting with athletic director Scott Stricklin on Sunday, but did not have a chance to get with McElwain. They finally did Monday.

“We had just got beat by Georgia,” senior wide receiver Brandon Powell said of the meeting with Stricklin. “Everybody was still stuck on the loss, then to hear some news like that … you can tell some of the young guys were hurt.”

But now that Coach Mac has said his goodbye, the Gators say they’re ready to move forward with interim head coach Randy Shannon, who is popular among the players.

To borrow a phrase McElwain used just last week, the few UF seniors have seen this movie before.

They went through the same thing when Will Muschamp was fired late in the 2014 season.

“I’m just worrying about Missouri this coming weekend,” Powell said. “But I’ve done been through it before with Muschamp. I know how to handle it, just got to go out there and finish your job by the end of the day.

“For me it is (easy to refocus) because I’ve been through it before. I know how to handle it this time around. At the end of the day, I can just control what I can control, and that’s getting my team better and getting ready for Missouri.”

Powell said he’s trying to assist the younger players who are still trying to overcome the shock of unexpectedly losing their coach, and the man who recruited them to Florida.

“The receivers, I tried to explain it to them,” Powell said. “Some of them asked me how I’ve been through it with Muschamp. We’ve got a couple of Muschamp guys still here. We’ve been trying to explain it to all the younger guys about staying focused. You’ve got to control what you can control. That’s all it is at the end of the day.”

Dawson is also helping the younger players cope.

“I mean it was very surprising for a lot of guys, especially the young guys who just got here,” Dawson said. “It’s eye opening to them. The thing they have to do is just move forward and continue to work.

“Just keep your head up. In life things happen. It’s something that you’ll need to be able to handle later in life, situations like this. I just give them all the advice I can.”

Senior running back Mark Thompson described the past 48 hours as “chaotic,” but said that things have already started to settle down.

“It was unexpected,” he said. “I don’t think anybody on the team saw that coming, but things happen. Just like how it is for us, a next-man-up mentality. Coach Shannon can get things done and get things moving.

“He’ll give it to you straight. He won’t beat around the bush. If you want to know something and you have to want to talk to him about any concerns, he’ll tell you the truth and be honest with you. That’s the way it should be.”

After saying goodbye to their former coach, Powell said the players are ready to play for their new coach.

“Oh, yeah,” he said. “I love Coach Shannon. Coach Shannon, he’s a good coach, you can talk to him about anything. He’s honest with you. I’m just excited to play for Coach Shannon right now.”


  1. wish coach mac well, and do want to thank evidently for taking a reduced buyout, which helps the gators. lots of good moments, twice – after ole miss in 2015, and iowa, I thought it was there. hopefully we wont regret this too much.

  2. Thanks to coach Mac for telling it like it was about and demanding that Florida upgrade practice area’s and indoor bubble and fields . WE were lacking big time in that Area of the program. Sorry Urban and J. Foley did not take care of all that 6 to 10 years ago. I wish Mac well, and he will regret not taking over the Offence more , that being said, glad he is removed. Hope the OBC can somehow convince his buddy Bobby to come in for five year’s. Boy’s that would be FUN.

  3. I appreciate that the players loved McElwain and also think highly of Coach Shannon. But I sure hope the new staff will also be able to earn the respect of the players while also be able to teach the players how to execute basic fundamental football with consistency. McElwain and his staff clearly have not been able to accomplish that task. Watching the OL repeatedly jump or move before the snap vs. Georgia was painful to watch. And I screamed out loud in total frustration when McCoy and Heggie let Rodchester spilt both of them without them hardly touching Rodchester and their lack of execution resulted in an easy sack of Franks. And how many times has Heggie done that this year. Too many to even think about anymore. If players cannot execute and learn, they should not play. Saban would not play them. But under Saban, they would learn and execute. It is called great coaching and proper player response to it. Neither has been happening in Gainesville under McElwain and his staff. Davis, the OL coach, may be a great and spiritual guy, but his OL is not getting better and not executing as they should. Being likeable is not what players need from a coach. Great coaching is what they need. And the coaches need and should demand great performances after that type of coaching. But one cannot happen without the other. Maybe the new staff will provide that and the players will start doing what is taught and expected of them next year.

  4. I just disagree with the oline coach being bad! We ran for 183 yds on Georgia and he can’t help our qb passed for 30 yds:-)
    Franks seems like a great young man but just does not have it upstairs. The oline blocked way better when Rio was calling out protections.

  5. Bob Stoops is not coming and frankly I wouldn’t care to see him here. He had trouble winning the big games and he has turned us down before. We need a coach that has the passion, energy, and forward thinking to develop and progress the team. That was a big part of Mac’s downfall. He lacked the energy and the players showed it on the field. I appreciate what things Mac accomplished but if you don’t develop the players you recruit, they stay raw and undisciplined. There is certainly great potential for the program and we do have talent. Go Gators!

  6. Mac is set for life, will never have to worry about money and can travel the world with the wife if they both want. Good luck Mac in the future whether you decide to coach again or not. That said, Mac was a terrible coach here who never even got started on what he was hired here for, to give us a top-notch offense with outstanding QB play. We are at the same level now as in the Muschamp years and in some ways we’re worse. The new coach will have a total rebuild to do on both O and D since Muschamp’s D personnel are mostly gone now and it showed on the field all year, especially against UGA last Saturday. The Mac experiment failed because Foley failed on the hire – guys like Mac are supposed to be disqualified during the hiring process by looking very closely at what their proven skillsets actually are. After listening to Stricklin’s presser on Sunday I feel very comfortable that this next hire will be done more professionally and the skills of the new coach will actually be there on the day he arrives. Above all, he must be a great LEADER. We are off to a new and promising start – GO GATORS!

  7. We all need to move forward, constantly forward, and not let the baggage of the past keep us from achieving greatness again. Coach Shannon is very professional, and his comments yesterday were very pertinent to our current situation. We are very fortunate to have Randy Shannon on board. “Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.” Romans 14:13