In a first-person diary entry published by Bleacher Report on Thursday, former Florida Gators quarterback Will Grier details his departure from the program. And while he places blame for his suspension squarely on his own shoulders, he claims that the reason he is no longer with Florida is because head coach Jim McElwain basically forced him off the team.
First, the explanation for his suspension.
Because Austin [Hardin] and I were obsessed with eating healthy, we noticed that those Gatorade drinks are loaded with sugar and carbs. There’s nothing wrong with them, but we didn’t want that in our bodies. So we went to a store in Gainesville called Total Nutrition and got some protein powder. We used that for a few months, and it seemed to work. I was putting on smart weight and was feeling healthier and more fit than I ever had. The third time we went in to buy the powder, in June 2015, the associate behind the counter, who knew us because we had been in there before, said, “You guys should try this.” It was called Ligandrol.
He said it was a new thing that helped your muscles take in more protein and helped them recover faster. So we went home, and the first thing we did was look on the internet. We’re not stupid; we wanted to look it up and make sure it was all clear. I looked at every NCAA site, and many other sites, to see if it was healthy for you. I wasn’t going to put anything in my body that wasn’t legal and wasn’t healthy. I checked each ingredient on the bottle to see if it was on the NCAA banned list. I did my research and was confident in it. What I didn’t do is ask the trainers at Florida if it was cleared. I still don’t know why I didn’t. It’s no one’s fault but mine.
OK, now to Grier’s departure from the Gators.
“I read in stories that I left the team, that it was my decision,” he writes. “It wasn’t. Coach McElwain was telling the media that I was eligible to practice with the team, while telling me I didn’t need to be around the team at this time. It felt like I was being pushed away by Florida.”
Grier, as you may remember, took some time away from the Gators while the season was still going on. McElwain explained that it was Grier’s choice to go home to North Carolina, particularly since there was not much he could do to help Florida win games, but that he would be welcomed back with open arms upon his return.
Prior reports had Grier’s return not going as all parties envisioned it. Grier and his father supposedly met with McElwain and asked for a guarantee that Grier would regain the starting job upon his return from suspension — six games into the 2016 season — at which point McElwain supposedly said he would not give any guarantees and became upset that Grier would even ask such a thing. The Griers were reportedly not pleased to not receive a guarantee.
Here’s how that transpired, according to Grier.
Grier says he and his father met with McElwain in November but the coach was two hours late to the meeting because “he was out recruiting Feleipe Franks.” He also claims “nothing could be further from the truth” in regards to his demand of a guarantee to start and that their side of the table acted in “the exact opposite way.”
I said, the exact quote, “I just want to know what your plans are for the future. Are you going to bring in more guys? Am I a guy you don’t see playing here in the future?” He said, “You’re welcome here in the future, you’re a Gator, but I’m not telling you my plans. I’m not giving you any guarantees.”
That answer does not sound like a particularly bad one from McElwain. In fact, it appears to go along with what was reported at the time of Grier’s transfer.
Grier says a second meeting with McElwain was set up as a last-ditch effort to see what Grier could do to “make it work” at Florida. He claims that took a negative turn, too.
He finally ended up saying, “Maybe a fresh start isn’t the worst thing.” He said that, and I said, “So I guess that’s the move.”
Grier says “it was obvious [McElwain] didn’t want me [to remain at Florida]” and he “will never understand why.” He goes on to note that “I never thought McElwain appreciated anything I did,” saying that a coach who did appreciate him “would’ve done anything to get me ready to play for the next year” and not the opposite. McElwain said he would allow a transfer to any school outside of the SEC and “was very helpful after that, once he knew I was leaving.”
McElwain actually responded to a Bleacher Report inquiry into his actions here, but as he is wont to do, failed to actually address the specific questions with his replies. He did, however, appear to note that there were more twists and turns in the story than Grier is letting on.
On pushing for Grier to transfer, he said, “I want nothing but the best for all of these guys. WVU is the best for him. That’s what should be the focus. I will protect him until the end. I’m not going to go into how many times the stories change or the different wiggles it took. I understand the dynamics and pressure he’s under. … I’m glad he found a home. I feel horrible about what occurred. I’m excited that he has a place where he can go make a difference.”
So that puts a bow on Grier’s tenure with the Gators. He has gotten in what will likely be the last word, and for a Florida coach whose recruiting has been subpar by his team’s standards to this point, McElwain may have some extra work to do out on the trail to combat some of the negativity that may be brought up now that Grier has written this about his former coach.