[Updated: 5:21p.m.] What seemed inevitable Saturday night became reality Sunday.
Florida and embattled head football coach Jim McElwain have agreed to part ways, UF athletic director Scott Stricklin announced Sunday afternoon.
“We want to thank Coach McElwain for his efforts in leading the Gator football program,” Stricklin said. “We are confident Coach (Randy) Shannon will provide the proper guidance to the players and the rest of the staff during this time and we will begin a national search for the next head coach.”
The two parties are currently negotiating terms of separation. Part of that negotiation is over McElwain’s $12.76 million buyout.
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.
Shannon, the defensive coordinator and former head coach at Miami, has been named interim head coach for the remainder of the season.
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.
According to reports, McElwain and UF officials met Sunday and the break was made.
After the 42-7 loss, 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 2015 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.
UF will launch a national search for McElwain’s replacement. A new coach likely won’t be named until after the regular season in early December.
Possible candidates could include South Florida’s Charlie Strong, Central Florida’s Scott Frost, Iowa State’s Matt Campbell, Memphis’ Mike Norvell, SMU’s Chad Morris and Syracuse’s Dino Babers.