The Back Nine: Bad fit top reason for McElwain’s dismissal

Georgia coach Kirby Smart,left, and then-Florida coach Jim McElwain meet at midfield after Georgia beat Florida 42-7 Saturday in Jacksonville. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

The Back Nine comes at you after the second strangest week of my career and, believe me, that’s saying something. The Urban Meyer 48 Hours episode in 2009 is still No. 1.

10. When Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin said Sunday night that the decision to “part ways” (and I cannot put enough sarcastic quotations around that) with Jim McElwain was not all about football, he’s speaking the truth. But to think it had nothing to do with football would be a fantasy. All you have to ask yourself is this question — would McElwain have been let go if the Gators were 7-0 right now? Stop laughing. I still think the team he had in June was good enough to be a top-10 team. But, this team is a leaking shell of that team. This dismissal had to do with everything. You want me to assign percentages?

• The bad fit part (which includes a lot of things) — 70 percent.

• The bad offense part — 13 percent.

• The death threats part — 12 percent.

• The suspensions part — 4 percent.

• The talking in circles part — 1 percent.

Was this decision a good look for Florida? Nope. The only thing that can be considered a negative when looking at this top-10-in-America job from the outside is the quick hook Jeremy Foley obviously passed along to Stricklin. But the past cannot be changed and it’s time for Florida fans to move along without staring at the wreck at the side of the road. It can be great again. Try to be patient this time.

11. Anyway, I know who the next coach will be. Really, I figured it out. It will come from this pool:

• Dan Mullen, Mississippi State.

• Chad Morris, SMU.

• Jeff Monken, Army.

• Jim Mora, UCLA.

• Philip Montgomery, Tulsa.

• Bronco Mendenhall, Virginia.

• Mike MacIntyre, Colorado.

• Gus Malzahn, Auburn.

One of them for sure. It’s a lock. Because isn’t it a law that every post-Ron Zook UF coach has to have a last name that starts with an “M”? Meyer, Muschamp, McElwain? OK, it isn’t an actual law, but I had you going there for a second. Look, anything anyone tells you is simply media speculation and you are going to hear more of that from here, there and everywhere. But the answer is simple. Take the top five or six coaches who want to be the next UF head coach and rank them based on what they have accomplished. Then crosscheck them with their ability to handle the expectations and mesh with the culture. And only one name emerges. I just don’t know who that is.

12. Think about this — whoever the next coach is faces an opponent that is difficult to beat. I’m speaking of Mother Nature.

• Ron Zook — had a game postponed because of a hurricane (Middle Tennessee) and rescheduled, killing his bye week. Fired during that season after a loss at Mississippi State.

• Will Muschamp — had a game canceled by severe weather (Idaho). Fired that season after a loss to South Carolina.

• Jim McElwain — survived the loss of one game and one moved game in 2016, but Momma came back with a flurry, cancelling a game against Northern Colorado the following year. Fired this season after a loss to Georgia.

Urban Meyer’s genius was in not getting any games canceled or postponed. It shows you the value of staying on schedule. I think.

13. What if I told you that it is 2008 and Florida just beat Miami the day before 26-3 and the Miami coach barely touched the Florida coaches hand when they were supposed to shake after the game and a day later said this at a news conference — “I’ll just say this one statement: Sometimes, when you do things and people see what type of person that you really are, you turn a lot of people off. Now whatever you want to get out of that, I won’t say it again. But it helped us. It helped us more than you’ll ever know?” And what if I told you that Miami coach is now the head of the Florida Gators? You’d be freaked out, right? I like everything interim head coach Randy Shannon had to say Monday. It’ll be nice to hear him more than once a year and it was obvious he didn’t agree with some things that were happening under the previous regime. Wait. Did I just type previous regime? About McElwain? This is just too strange.

14. Let’s move on. I thought the Heisman Trophy race was pretty much closed before Ohio State beat Penn State and stuffed Saquon Barkley after his opening kickoff return in the process. Right now, it feels wide open again. I even think Bryce Love got back in it by not playing so we could see how bad Stanford’s offense is without him. But that’s just me. A Heisman voter.

15. When Tom Verducci published his Sports Illustrated report about the balls being different and hurting the pitchers in the World Series, it felt like a giant mess. Then we watched Game 5 and we have all decided, “more slick balls, fewer swings and misses.” Who was the ad wizard who came up with the idea of changing the balls (old Saturday Night Live sketch reference)? That game and this World Series have been to die for. And I realized while watching Sunday night that I never made a World Series prediction so here goes — I like it to go at least six, maybe seven. Thanks. I’ll be here all week. Please tip your waitresses.

16. Tiger Woods is coming back to competitive golf. Maybe I should feel inspired and give those weekend scrambles another try. Seriously, it’s great for golf as a sport but not if he throws a bunch of 78s out there. We need Tiger to be competitive if we’re going to flip away from football at the end of next month. On another golf note, you should check out the new fairways at Ironwood. They were worth the wait. The ball sits up like it’s begging to be hit. And yet …

17. The Tweet of the Week comes from my friend and college football writer Brett McMurphy — “Tip for next UF coach: UF’s 66 yards passing vs. Georgia lowest since 60 yards vs. South Carolina in 2014. Will Muschamp fired next day.” You add that gem in with my earlier weather note and this thing starts to get spooky on Halloween.

18. So Paul McCartney Tweeted something out about setting clocks back Sunday and it really threw off my whole day because he was a week early. That Paul! Anyway, add in a rare Sunday night of work and a very sad funeral Monday and it has already been a different week. I need a playlist to cheer me up:

• “Chateau” by Angus and Julia Stone.

• “Always Ascending” by Franz Ferdinand.

• “Sweet Mary” by Weezer.

• “The Wilds” by Henry Jamison.

• And for an old one because we were having the Jethro Tull belongs in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame discussion on the elevator in Jacksonville, “Life Is A Long Song” by Jethro Tull.

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




  1. Wow @ that Randy Shannon observation. I had a similar thought when he was initially hired as an assistant and then later promoted to DC. I had an eerie feeling that he will end up at HC. It’s a crazy world.

  2. I’m wondering why the other former Miami coach, who built arguably the best team in college football history isn’t being mentioned as a possible candidate. Butch Davis has FIU at 5-2 and can recruit the hell out of the state of Florida. Seems kind’ve strange his name isn’t popping up.

  3. Pat, what does everybody mean by “bad fit?” I keep hearing writers and broadcasters refer to that but nobody really can define it. I have heard reference to the Kelvin Taylor throat slash incident, some negative comments he made about fans after a bowl game and some negative comments he made about the administration’s perceived lack of commitment with respect to facilities. Is that it? Or did his personality just grate on people? That’s where I was. As you and others have said, if he was beating FSU and Alabama and had an offense clicking on all cylinders, those “bad fit” issues would not have mattered. But under the circumstances, he always grated on me with his inability to finish a sentence, talking in circles, goofy comments coming off the field (when getting trashed at halftime against FSU and asked about the team’s failure to stop Dalvin Cook he comments “Isn’t he fun to watch?”), not to mention other aesthetic issues I won’t mention. Anyway, I personally would be interested in what you mean by “bad fit.”

    • Good comments RB. I’m so glad you mentioned Coach Mac’s comment about Dalvin Cook, after being trashed by FSU in the first half of the ballgame, being “fun to watch!” …….and with a big grin on his face at that. I sat there dumbfounded wondering if I had heard him correctly. I can’t imagine any other head coach UF has ever had who would say such a thing. That remark all by itself just screams “bad fit.”

    • I’m not defending Mac’s gobbledegook by any means but the questions they throw at the coaches coming off or going back on the field are priceless. Like, “What is your plan of attack in the 2nd half?”
      And RobBob is right…if ‘Bad fit’ is 70% (in your opinion), then explain to the ‘unwashed’ what it means, to you. Not trying to be mean, just trying to understand.

  4. Look Pat, this season was laid out in the spring when the first string barely beat the second string in the spring game and all throughout the spring and fall the players were saying nobody was going to stop our super dynamic offense. The entire MAC era was a fantasy and a bad dream. Just imagine the consequences if we had allowed the dream to continue for another year. And about the bad fit – MAC was impossible to listen to after each game. He never made sense.

  5. You really think this is a top 10 team w/ the suspended knuckleheads??? Are you kidding me??? What from this QB stable and OC play calling. Tells you this would be all different with Scarlett and Calloway in the line up. I doubt we’d be much better than what we currently are. I’m almost looking at the suspensions as a positive now. Because it expedited what needed to be done for the benefit of this program.

    • He didn’t say it’s a top-10 team NOW. He was referring to either the beginning of the season, or – I think – coming out of spring. But I agree with you about the suspensions maybe turning out to be a good thing.

      How many strikes does Calloway have? He should have already been kicked off the team.

  6. Pat, you have the “inside access”. So you would know the reasons much better than most of the rest of us. But “quick hook”? … I’d say maybe not quick enough. Since Spurrier, all of our HCs have been excellent recruiters – until McElwain. And THAT’S what got exposed – AGAIN – this time by Georgia. We could afford to be patient with Muschamp. He was recruiting well. And seeing how we ended up downgrading to McElTrainwreck, we probably should have given Muschamp one more year. He seems to be doing well at SC. But now, with 3 bad recruiting classes, the new coach is coming into a rebuilding scenario. A quick Meyer-like turnaround is highly unlikely. So – as long as the new coach is recruiting well – you are correct. We need to be patient.
    The other factor you are ignoring is timing. There should have been no questioning Foley’s firing Zook in ’04. Coaches like Urban Meyer are few and far between. He would not have been an option if we gave Zook another year. This year is the same scenario. Some power-5 school is going to get Frost this year. By firing McElwain now, we get to be the first one to try to “woo” him.

  7. What if this scenario occurred? Okay Florida loses to LSU but against Texas A&M instead of throwing an interception on the Gators’ last chance, Franks throws a bad ball that is deflected right into the hands of a Florida receiver who runs for a TD and Florida wins. Now Mac is happy doesn’t tell the death threats fib at his Monday news conference and then a fired up Gator team competes with Georgia but ends up losing by 10 in the fourth quarter. Now the Athletic Dept. who knows that Mac is a bad fit cannot do anything because if he was fired, prospective HC replacements would not appreciated the tight leash they would be on at UF. So I guess things worked out? Mac was not rescued by fate as he was versus Tennessee and Kentucky and he melted down carrying the team with him giving us the debacle in Jacksonville.

  8. PAT: Really nice job c your multiple regression analysis. Put differently, partialing out the percentages of the variance in the firing. Not that I agree c it, mind you….but nice job anyway, and it’s refreshing to see the level of thought put into it. Then again, your analysis of “who’s next” candidates frankly worries the crap out of me (mostly)!

  9. 65% – Mac possessed no skills that he was hired for “Offensive guru and QB Whisperer”, was a dismal failure showing no improvement in 2.5 years, allowed the D to regress, special teams were a disaster. The man could have literally stayed in bed and never come to work and had similar results.
    10% – Could not articulate a single thought intelligently. Terrible in front of any camera or microphone.
    10% – No game day coaching, no adjustments, no clock or awareness of timeouts or other relevant facts while on the sidelines
    15% – Mentally incapable of handling this job. Paranoid personality. Accused Gator Nation of death threats to him, his family and his players, and he made it all up. Mac’s IQ and mental stability should be analyzed and published as part of the Root Cause investigation. Red flags in every area could originate from this one.
    NOTE: This entire McElwain story should be required study for all University personnel upon entering the Senior Administration level, and the school of psychiatry.

  10. Pat,
    The field of golfers that Tiger Woods will be playing against is not only better but significantly better than what he beat up on during his prime. Get that foul-mouth tuned up Tiger, you are in for a surprise when you return.