Image Credit: ESPNI
Leading the Florida Gators to 10 wins and an appearance in the SEC Championship Game for the first time since 2009 is nothing to thumb one’s nose at. Instead, the powers that be at Florida decided to thumb through a stack of hundreds in handing head football coach Jim McElwain a $750,000 annual raise following his first season with the team.
McElwain, who initially signed a six-year, $21 million contract with the Gators, will now earn $4.25 million per season, making him the highest paid coach in the SEC East and sixth highest paid in the conference. He also becomes the ninth of 14 SEC coaches to earn in excess of $4 million per season. As no extension was provided, his contract still runs through the 2020 season.
“We recognized early in Coach Mac’s tenure that he totally changed the vibe around football for The Gator Nation and in the building,” said athletic director Jeremy Foley in a statement. “Dr. Fuchs and I first talked about this in mid-October — we didn’t want to make it about winning one game or advancing to the SEC Championship Game.
“We wanted to make a change because of the direction of the program and his leadership. From the moment he set foot on this campus, he has steadily put into place his blueprint for the football program. His efforts have been relentless. We are very grateful to have him and his family in Gainesville.”
Criticized for being thrifty over the last few seasons, Florida has spent immense sums of money in its transition to McElwain from Will Muschamp. Not only did UF agree to a substantial buyout with Colorado State for McElwain’s services, it also changed construction plans on its indoor practice facility, increasing the size (70 yards to 120 yards) and cost ($12 million to $17 million) of the facility, which was put on a rush schedule to be built prior to the start of the 2015 season.
McElwain, 54, has also demanded millions more in program and facility upgrades. The Gators made significant dorm renovations last summer and plan to do a second round of changes soon, which the coach called “a huge piece for us.” Changes are also expected to come soon to what McElwain termed the “operations center;” he noted this week that there are groups on campus that have have been conducting feasibility studies as a method of estimating costs and time demands for the program.
“Locker rooms, training rooms, meeting rooms, you name it. We got a long ways to go,” McElwain said. “Here’s the good thing: We’re moving in the direction and people are open to listening, open to look and see what we need to do to move us ahead for a long time to come.”
All of this is going on while UF is expanding and rejuvenating the Office of Student Life at a cost of approximately $25 million. That facility, of course, is available to all student-athletes, not just football players.
“It’s great to know that our university and administration believe in the direction we are taking this program,” McElwain said in Friday’s release. “This sends a strong message about the things we are putting in place and the work of the entire organization. It sends a real message in recruiting that we have the support and confidence in our long-term vision.”