Dooley: Stricklin’s defining hire to lead UF football

Florida coach Jim McElwain talks with quarterback Feleipe Franks on the sideline in the second half Saturday against Georgia in Jacksonville. Georgia won 42-7. UF and McElwain parted ways Sunday. [John Raoux/The Associated Press]

Scott Stricklin made a lot of Florida fans happy Sunday.

First, by cutting loose a coach who so many of those fans wanted gone for reasons other than the ones that got him canned.

And again Sunday night when he said this:

“Being in this league for 25 years, when Florida has been really good, from a distance it has looked really fun and I want it to be really fun. Our fans, they deserve it to be really fun.”

Make Florida Fun Again.

What a concept.

Someone put that on a hat.

Just know that it doesn’t guarantee anything.

The Florida athletic director knows very well how important it is to get this right. He also knows that great football coaches are hardly growing on the palm trees outside his office.

They are difficult to find and identify and then get and then keep.

You can think you make home run hires and they get caught short of the wall.

“I think fans sometimes look at hiring coaches kind of like you or I might look at going down to Best Buy and buying a 50-inch TV,” Stricklin said Sunday night. “You look at the side of the box and read all the specs and you open up the box and that’s what’s going to be in there.

“Personnel hirings are not quite like that. You might think you’re getting something, sometimes you don’t know until you get there.”

The process is going to be taxing, but there is a frustrated fan base that desperately needs it to be fruitful because of the last seven years of wandering in an offensive wilderness.

“The past doesn’t really impact the stress level,” Stricklin said. “I wanna do a good job and I want us to have a really good football program and I want to do everything I can to bring the right leader in here that Gator Nation can get behind.”

It’s ready.

Not all Gator fans were happy Sunday, of course. Just as there were with Will Muschamp and Ron Zook, McElwain had his supporters. More than that, there are a lot of people who are wondering why in the heck Florida is doing this again — starting all over — and how things escalated so quickly.

It wasn’t that quick.

But there was a heavy straw last week that buckled the knees of the situation.

And in the end, Stricklin’s lack of confidence that McElwain was the right guy to lead Florida was overwhelming.

McElwain was a square peg with unruly splinters that simply didn’t fit into the smooth, round hole that is Florida athletics. It didn’t work, this 50-inch television with an offense that apparently didn’t have cable.

It’s not that McElwain’s a bad coach and certainly not that he’s a bad guy. But when you are stubbornly myopic in your behavior, you are going to lose allies quickly.

Still, it’s not a good look for Florida to have run through three coaches not named Urban Meyer since Steve Spurrier left and UF has only given those three coaches 33 games (Zook), 48 games (Muschamp) and 34 games (McElwain) before pulling the plug.

Maybe UF should be known as Pink Slip U.

But that doesn’t mean that Florida isn’t a coveted job. It’s one of the best in America and one reason it is better than it was when McElwain took it is because of the things he has done to make it better.

He knew it. And he knew that this wasn’t going well long before this tumultuous week. He told a friend a couple of weeks ago, “They’re going to run me out of here and someone else is going to benefit from all of the work I’ve done.”

The question is who that will be.

You’re going to hear of dozens of candidates. Established coaches. Up and comers. Shots in the dark. The only thing that really matters is that Florida and an athletic director making the biggest hire of his career gets this one right.

Stricklin will have options. But there are almost no sure things in college football.

Once you eliminate all of the coaches who would not be interested, the pool isn’t as deep as you want it to be. You can’t even be sure that the next great Florida coach is available.

Three things:

1. He has to want the job.

2. He has to fit the Florida way.

3. He can’t run up the middle on third and goal.

OK, that last one was mine.

There are a lot of things Florida needs in a new coach including in-state recruiting and straight answers to questions.

Oh, and how about a few laughs?

Make Florida Fun Again?

Why not?

It beats the alternative.

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


      • Lol….true but I am with Gator Steve…is Nuss out as well? My guess is no but we’ll find out st noon with Coach Shannon’s presser. I honestly don’t care if they throw darts at a dartboard, let a GA or a fan out of the stands call plays, as long as it’s not Nuss.

        These players have been through enough, let’s actually give them a chance to be successful on offense, which will help the defense and the circle of life can finally start to begin again at UF.

  1. Very disappointed in McElwain. After what he did at Colorado St, I figured he was the right guy to get the Gators offense back to the level it HAS to be to compete with ‘Bama and Georgia.
    I hope they do what the L A Rams did. Hire a brilliant young offensive mind to be head coach, with a veteran (and sharp) defensive coordinator Scott Frost would definitely be my first choice as well.

    • As a 71 year old, I suppose I should agree with those who want to recycle “glory days” former coaches like C. Strong or D. Mullen, but I agree that what might be best is a young , dynamic, offensive-minded coach to start a new era……such as S. Frost, W. Taggart or my personal 1st choice: Mike Norvell.

  2. “They’re going to run me out of here and someone else is going to benefit from all of the work I’ve done.”

    The guy is a narcissist and suffers from Dunning Kruger effect.

    In the field of psychology, the Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias wherein people of low ability suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their cognitive ability as greater than it is. The cognitive bias of illusory superiority derives from the metacognitive inability of low-ability persons to recognize their own ineptitude.

    • Jim, it’s a helluva stretch to diagnose this guy as having Narcissistic PDO, especially without ever examining him 1:1. Maybe better to say, “I speculate that….”. I’ve never examined him either, for that matter, but honestly I don’t see any evidence of an Axis II disorder, nor do I see any degree of cognitive impairment either. How about we just leave it at him being over his head in this instance?

  3. “It’s not that McElwain’s a bad coach…” REALLY?? Then explain the strength-of-the-team O-line’s no-show against Michigan (and don’t play the ‘suspensions’ card, that didn’t enter into it). Explain how losses to LSU and TAMU both came Ron Zook-style, when the game was literally there for the taking and we just …didn’t. Explain how Nuss is still the OC despite trying to convert the last drive against the Aggies by lining up a single back 5 yards deep and running up the gut (and if 5 yards back is good, why not try 10 back next time?) Explain how there was no objective demonstration, or subjective feeling among the fans of systemic improvement 2-1/2 years in. Explain how Mac rode poor Franks into the dirt against Georgia, instead of puling this Brantley 2.0 at the half and putting Zaire in when it was beyond obvious to all that the starter was mentally broken.

    Explain why after the Outback Bowl, Mac would publicly take a swipe at his own AD.

    Explain why an experienced, knowledgeable journalist like yourself would be party to a free ad for his $#(@! BBQ sauce on the day before a critical, first home game of the year, and why Mac thought that would be a “cool” rollout in the context of his team’s declining performance.

    Yes, it IS that Mac was that bad of a coach here. Maybe not at Bama, or CSU, but at Florida he started off well, and declined steadily in every phase visible to the fans. Here he indeed was a bad coach.

    • Hey Pat, explain how FSU is 2-5 and just got blown out 35-3 by a 3 win Boston College team? Is Jimbo Fisher a bad coach because of it? I mean how many top 5 classes have they brought in the last 5 years? They’re far more talented across the board and a much deeper roster and only lose 1 player and completely fall apart, while the Gators have lost how many the last couple of years to an already thin team? It’s pretty easy to understand why they were struggling on the field if you’re willing to accept reality, but as far as what happened off the field, only Mac can explain that. Mac’s right, the next coach will benefit greatly from what he built, which is sad cause it was obvious to everyone who isn’t blind to reality that he was a QB away from having a very explosive offense. He’s leaving this program in far better shape than Muschamp left it and for that he should be praised.

      • Joe…I hate to be a total jerk to you or anyone, but when I read, someone will, “benefit greatly from what he built” I literally laugh out loud!!! I honestly feel our football program is in complete shambles. I’ve been a Gator, not a Gator fan, since the early 70’s. I think I can honestly say that the team that played UGA was the worst team ever assembled at Florida….they can’t do anything, especially run pass routes or tackle. Additionally, I don’t think things will turn around anytime soon. I’m sure many recruits are now looking elsewhere as we speak. I am totally bummed out about all of this. My choice for HBC would be Jon Gruden…he would be an exciting leader that the kids would go to war for, or they would be gone. Just my thoughts.

      • Joe, what happened ON the field was increasingly bad. The losses to LSU and TAMU were 100% Mac’s fault. Not pulling Franks by halftime against UGA was Mac’s fault. Nuss calling guaranteed losers was Mac’s responsibility.

        It was obvious to everyone not blind that there would be no improved trend over the long term. That’s what properly got him fired.

    • JF made his rep mostly off of Billy Donovan. After that, I don’t think he ever got over telling the guy in mirror “YOU, my friend, are a genius!” Bernie Machen pulled in Urb. JF did hire some truly great coaches for baseball, softball, tennis, soccer and the rest of a VERY deep athletic department. But he was only 1-3 hiring football coaches.

  4. The new coach must know and implement the three phases of a football team: Offense, Defense, and Special Teams. He doesn’t have to be great in all three, but at least good in one and near great in the other two. Obviously the right assistants are required to fully complement the new coaches philosophy. Right now, OFFENSE would be a great start and would excite the fan base after years of ineptitude.
    Mr Stricklin knows this and will hopefully find the right guy.

  5. Strickland is definitely a politician he told G N exactly what they wanted to hear. Now we will find out how realistic his clams were. I find it difficult to believe the our rep with coaches doesn’t impact our candidate pool which why I was dreading the event. Hopefully, Strickland enthusiastic optimism will work on the candidates for the job. I understand that Mac did himself in with the Death Threat Situation and cover up; by not coming clean was the lynch pin that both sides wanted.
    Now my take potential coaches
    Kelly ( too much NCAA baggage)
    Gruden (couldn’t develop QB at pro level, no recruiting exp. offense to complicated)
    Leach (too much baggage)
    Mullen (divided support from fans & he not even coach) he’s probably happy at MSU
    Frost ( he appears to be best option in spite of short sample size. Big question can we get him)
    Norville (I feel he would come I don’t see it as sexy pick could be a back up option)
    Strong ( Did not preform well under the demands of big time job and is probably very comfortable at USF)
    Campbell ( Florida connections are thin losing record)
    Babers ( thin Florida connections but could be good choice)

    So I say Frost followed by Babers, then Norville would be my top choices.

    • What rep with coaches? Chump had four years to get the job done and failed miserably. Mac had nearly the same record as Chump at the same stage, and went out and threw the entire fan base under the bus in his little pity party. Everyone knows that, there will be no negative blow back from either one.

        • CHUMP badmouthed fans while he was a coach, and he badmouthed the entire university after he was fired. You don’t need any help with a bad name, your support of that loser speaks loud and clear.

      • You don’t get a rep from one incident. It started with SOS; who said he wasn’t having fun do to expectation of fan base. Zook should never have never been hired so I don’t think he;s a factor. Urban faked a heart attack to get out of town. Mullen’s wife said she grocery shopped in Orlando. WM and JM fired after 34 and 35 games.
        So that would be the rep I’m referring. Hey thee issues will effect our next hire as they have in the past. How do you think Zook got the job in the first place? He was a special team coach. totally unheard of then and now. I hope for Frost then Babers.

  6. Hey Pat I agree that replacing 5 coaches since 2002 is not what anyone wants but it simply proves that bad hires will not be tolerated at UF. Foley chose poorly on 3 of those four.

    We/Gator Nation have tasted success and expect it to continue. So the narrative implied in this and previous articles and blogs that the UF fanbase and administration is too demanding and unrealistic for a coach to excel at their job at UF is utter nonsense. How are we different from Bama, FSU, LSU, Tenn and Auburn?

    Bama went through 8 coaches in 25 years after Bryant.

    reFSU pushed Bobby out and he made them.

    TENN is still reeling from Phil Fulmer’s departure.

    Auburn pushed out three different coaches (Bowden, Tubs and Chizik) who had led them to perfect seasons within a few years of them having done so.

    LSU and UGA both fired the winningest coaches in their history within the last two years.

    So please no more insinuations about the bad look at UF. It is absurd.

    Lastly,so glad we have Stricklin as our AD. He smoked it last night!

    • I’m with you on Bob Stoops. Unlike Kozo the Clown (Zook), Stoops is fondly remembered for his time as DC. I don’t know why he left OK. Maybe it was just time. But unless he has some health-related reason for stepping away, it’s hard to imagine he’ll never scratch the coaching itch again.

    • You mean “Big Game” Bob Stoops, whose moniker came from his dismal record in big games (except of course for causing Bowden to have that “Mommy I think I wet myself,” look in the 2001 BCS championship game).


  7. It may be difficult to consistently win championships but at a school like Florida it should never be difficult to have an offense that consistently moves the football against all manner of opponents. Florida should always be competitive given its natural advantages of being smack in the middle of the most talent laden state in country, 12 months of sunshine and the massive amounts of money that come with being in the SEC.

    If the next coach can put a competent offense on the field and conduct himself appropriately in press conferences and sideline interviews, Gator Nation will instantly rally behind him.

    My goodness, those sideline interviews with Mac were pure unadulterated torture!

    Go Gators!!

  8. Mac was brought in to fix the offense. He didn’t and everyone and their mother could see that. Mac had the great fortune of having WM players on D, make no mistake UF won back to back east titles against lousy competition with their D. Period! 3 solid years of putrid offense is alone a fireable offense. Any blind person could see no improvement and keeping Mac/nuss it would have remained the same. Mac did himself in and with that stunt he pulled last Monday yes, it was the last straw.

    There are other sec programs (fans) that actually admire our dedication for greatness. Heck right now UT is beside themselves with their AD not pulling the plug on Sgt Carter. IMO 2 and 1/2 years was plenty enough to see what this coach can do and he failed. Not just on offense, but our ST’s play is the worst I’ve seen at UF. I wish Mac nothing but the best but we are ready to move on. I am so glad this university is NOT comfortable with mediocrity at the sake of pleasing the political correct types that say “you’re not being fair”. This is a big business and every coach knows that, they are paid handsomely to win. It’s win or get out of the way. Thank you Mr. Strickland.

  9. I had high hopes for Coach Mac but it told me a lot about his thought process when he was disappointed that M. Davis didn’t take a knee and run the clock out rather than get the twenty something yard touchdown he got earlier this year. Its a mindset and to me that says he would rather just settle than be aggressive and that mindset will get you straight to the bottom of the SEC!

  10. I researched Dan Mullen in depth and i think he is a good candidate. Only thing that concerns me is that his recruiting has been very average. Chip Kelly is a gimmick coach that has never won a championship nor coached in the SEC plus will be super expensive. Frost is the hot name now but so was Muschamp.

    Les Miles stands out as a coach that can take the reins for the next 4-5 years and right the ship. The guy can coach and recruit. He gets a bad rep for offense but with the right coordinator it can work. I mean the guy has a National Championship and won 75% of his games at LSU. That makes him elite. He knows how to coach. Plus look at NFL rosters and see what type of talent he brought in at LSU. Miles can have the Gators back in contention for East next year. I don’t think we skip a beat. Do your own research on this guy and see what you come up with.

    • Two things, Tbone: (1) Recruiting at Miss State has always been catch up, no matter who was the coach. Mullen would be a great hire if he’ll take the job (I keep hearing about some big flap when he left, damned if I know what it was); (2) Les Miles would do a great job here, at least get us back on top before he retires down the road.

  11. as to dooleys point, no question stricklin took a risk, effectively firing the coach before the Georgia game. first that he could get mac to take a buyout on a shaky death threats claim. hell I ve had death threats, and I’m not in the public eye, and they weren’t enough to take serious. people just use threats to get some sort of power I guess. then that he had a coach ready such as meyer. third that the situation was a relatively easy fix (I’m still not enthused about the mess from the credit card debacle) as opposed to going backwards from losing a bunch more recruits, and 4th that we have the resources for all of these buyouts, and quick triggers. sure losing to ed orgeron is really an indication that things were going backwards.. I wish mac well and hope he doesn’t beat us down the road like champ is about to.

  12. when you never display the look that you’re in command, then you certainly don’t deserve being in a command position…being the commander. simple as that. you’re not only a football coach in command of the X’s & O’s, you are also charged with being the leader of young men, building confidence and showing support on so many levels…putting them it a position to show both athletic and personal growth both on and off the field. you be the judge. that’s the true measure here…and this is the result. Stricklin stopped the madness.

  13. Pat, you’ve really surprised me this year with your honesty about the coaching staff. I’ve enjoyed your perspective this year and also your podcasts.

    But this article comes off like you’re mad at the fans. You’ve been lighting a fire under Jim and the coaching staff all season, why stop now? He ran himself out of Gainesville with his stubbornness, arrogance, and bizarre language.

    Such an odd article, but I’ll continue to follow you regardless.

    • Didn’t get the impression here, Garrett, that Pat was mad at the fans….but sure do agree c you on the stubbornness and bizarre language/deportment angle vis-a-vis “ran himself out of Gainesville…”. I actually liked him personally, if not his coaching style as possibly correlated c the lack of enthusiasm or sense of urgency I always noted on the field, but I did have the impression from Day 1 that he was typically acting like he was in Margaritaville instead of Gainesville. Wouldn’t call him arrogant though, more like way too laid back for the task at hand.

  14. My Top 3 –

    Josh McDaniels – young, offensive mind, develops quarterbacks, understands how to build a successful culture, assess talent – bring NFL credibility and NE Patriots winning culture to UF

    Chip Kelly – See John Calipari at UK, he cheated early in career because he had to. Doesn’t have to cheat with resources and talent base UF provides

    Charlie Strong – Potential dominant recruiter, knows culture, great defensive coach, would allow $ for great offensive coordinator

  15. I agree the best coach available that is a complete, young. innovative and successful coach is Scott Frost, in the top 5 offense in America. We know he has ties in Nebraska but with a little persuasion he would not turn down the best coaching job in the USA and he will not have to move far from Orlando

  16. “They’re going to run me out of here and get someone in here to inherit all the hard work I’ve done. ” Sooooooo in my opinion, it’s not only gatornation running you out of here, I’m not saying you didn’t work hard, but you took our program down the toilet. Now Strick has to get a plunger, unclog all this sewage you created, and get a real leader to lead this storied Championship program. Oh, aren’t you the same pompous arrogant so-called coach who shunned Steve Spurrier when he tried to reach out to you on two occasions? Mcelwain, don’t let the door hit you in the a– on the way out!

  17. Another interesting piece to note regarding Les Miles, Feleipe Franks was committed to LSU and Miles for 18 months and only committed to Florida after the rumors began of Miles getting fired. So Miles is very familiar with Franks and what he can do and vice versa. Miles obviously saw talent in this Franks and that’s our starter next year so Miles makes alot of sense.

    Frost seems to be a guy that will be successful but Florida doesn’t need experiments right now. We need stability.

    My leading candidates are Miles and Mullen.