Florida Gators coaching search ticker: Candidates, tracker, updates, news, analysis

By Adam Silverstein
November 12, 2017
Florida Gators coaching search ticker: Candidates, tracker, updates, news, analysis

Image Credit: ESPN Images

The search is underway. The Florida Gators are looking to hire the 25th head football coach in program history, and OnlyGators.com will be with you the entire way updating this page with the latest news, updates and notes as athletic director Scott Stricklin and the University Athletic Association attempts to fill the vacancy.

Coaching candidates | Candidate tiers

Bookmark this page and check in daily for all the latest as Florida works through its task of replacing Jim McElwain. We will do our best to only share reputable news while dispelling as many rumors as possible throughout the process.

Monday, Nov. 20 — Day 22

3:27: In an interview with Paul Finebaum, long-time Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke said he did not think Chip Kelly was truly in the cards for UCLA. “I don’t see it happening by any stretch of the imagination,” Plaschke said, citing Kelly’s NCAA baggage.

12:15 p.m.: Sports Illustrated‘s Bruce Feldman reported for the first time on the Florida-Chip Kelly situation, noting that sources from “both sides felt the meeting went well” and that “Kelly has made it clear from the beginning that he’s going to be pretty deliberate in this process.” Furthermore, Feldman reports that the next 72 hours should tell us more and that “there was never any intention that Kelly would fly back with Florida brass on that plane as their next head coach.” As far as UCLA’s interest, Feldman does not offer much insight on that other than to say the job opening “adds to the intrigue” and that Kelly is likely the Bruins’ top target.

Chomp: Kelly’s deliberate decision making is famous, as is his desire to keep things private and close to the vest, so there’s no surprise here. As mentioned Sunday, the Gators not expecting to have Kelly fly back on that plane was known, though it is unknown whether Florida was anticipating an agreement or signature during that meeting. The biggest takeaway from Feldman’s report is our first indication that the meeting “went well” with both sides saying so. It is also worth noting that Feldman does not note a meeting or conversation with UCLA is imminent.

Sunday, Nov. 19 — Day 21

10:08 p.m.: em>The Gainesville Sun‘s Robbie Andreu confirmed details of Florida’s trip to meet with Chip Kelly, adding that no agreement has been reached and Kelly may want to talk to UCLA.

9:45 p.m.: FootballScoop.com reports that “representatives from UCLA were scheduled to meet” with Chip Kelly on Monday and that Kelly is “not flying to Florida just yet” after meeting with the Gators on Sunday night. < Chomp: Whether Kelly flew back with Florida is irrelevant at this point; all that truly matters is whether he agreed to become coach or signed a contract. FootballScoop also mentions the potential UCLA meeting in the past tense — “scheduled to meet” — though that may have just been how it wrote the update. Either way, if UF went all the way up to New Hampshire, and Kelly wants to speak with UCLA before agreeing to terms with the Gators, that’s not necessarily ideal.

8:50 p.m.: Consecutive tweets from Sports Illustrated‘s Andy Staples and The Gainesville Sun‘s Pat Dooley threw a bit of water on a Chip Kelly hire happening at this time. Staples was told “Kelly has not decided anything yet, but he has options,” while Dooley reports a Florida-Kelly marriage is “not a done deal.”

5:48 p.m.: FootballScoop.com is reporting that conversations between Florida and Chip Kelly are “advancing.” Long-time UF writer Buddy Martin, who now has a radio show in the Ocala area, reported on his Facebook account that “Florida’s top officials have flown to New Hampshire and are on the ground meeting with Chip Kelly, presenting him with a contract to sign and become Gator football coach.” OnlyGators.com, through flight tracking software, has found that a private jet left Ocala, Florida, and arrived in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, shortly before 4:30 p.m. ET on Sunday. It is not known whether UF administration is on that plane. Furthermore, the son of the current UAA board president tweeted that a deal is done.

5:25 p.m.: Contrary to the below report that Chip Kelly’s agent was headed to Los Angeles to meet and negotiate with UCLA, two sources close to the situation tell us there has not been movement on that front at this time. In fact, the Gators may be zeroing in on Kelly as their primary coaching target.

2:15 p.m.: UCLA has fired Jim Mora. 247Sports.com reports that Chip Kelly’s agent, David Dunn, is on his way to Los Angeles to meet with the Bruins’ administration. Chomp: Considering Kelly’s experience in the Pac-12 and the fertile recruiting ground of the state of California, this may become a thorn in Florida’s side if it does indeed decide on Kelly as its top target this cycle. The Bruins did not fire Mora — and pay his massive $12 million buyout — on a whim. It is clear UCLA has a target, and Kelly makes he most sense. Whether it gets him — and whether Kelly is actually Florida’s top target — are other stories altogether.

8:40 a.m.: Asked about the Florida job while on ESPN, Chip Kelly was extremely complimentary of it but noted he was at his home in New Hampshire last week and not in Connecticut. Watch below.

Saturday, Nov. 18 — Day 20

1:30 p.m.: A Friday night report that UCF head coach Scott Frost and Nebraska have worked out terms is false on multiple levels. While the Cornhuskers have made their intentions known to the Knights on an administrative level, that’s all that has happened at this time and is certainly not indicative of anything else. Nebraska still has a coach under its employ, and Frost is not looking to discuss his future until after the regular season.

Friday, Nov. 17 — Day 19

6:54 p.m.: Though these comments were not made in relation to Florida’s coaching search — the topic was actually Ole Miss at the time — ESPN‘s Gene Wojciechowski made an interesting statement Friday on the network’s “College Sports Live” show. “There’s been talk of Willie Taggart already wanting to get out of Oregon,” he said. “… He hasn’t even coached a full season yet. That is very tough to leave after one.” Chomp: It was interesting that Taggart’s name was put out there rather quickly when the UF job opened only to be shot down by the coach himself. However, if he is looking to get out of Oregon, there would be few better spots for him than Florida.

6:12 p.m.: It’s been oddly quiet for nearly 48 hours, and perhaps this is a reason why. ESPN‘s Chris Low — first on the radio and then on Twitter — asserted Friday that Florida and Chip Kelly may not ultimately be a match made in Swamp heaven. “What I said [on the radio] was that Kelly to Florida wasn’t nearly as far down the road as many thought and could fall through. Very fluid,” he wrote. Chomp: This may come as a surprise to some of you that have been following the absurd rumors and purely false reports on Twitter and elsewhere. There is a reason why this outlet and some others have not gone any further than calling Kelly a “legitimate candidate” for the job. We have attempted to make that quite clear in this space (see Wednesday, 11:20 a.m.).

Despite the Gators wanting a coach in as quickly as possible due to the early signing period, this search remains young. It could end in a snap if UF decides to tap Kelly for the job, or it could extend another two-plus weeks. There is also the consideration that both sides may want it to look like interest — or a negotiation — is not far down the road as leverage to ensure they get what they want from one another. So while this report certainly does not put Kelly at Florida immediately, it also should not worry anyone in the “Kelly or bust” camp at this time.

Wednesday, Nov. 15 — Day 17

5:12 p.m.: Speaking with Robbie Andreu of The Gainesville Sun, Stricklin said Wednesday that the Gators “are in the middle of a search process.” As OnlyGators.com reported Wednesday morning (see below), a source told Andreu that “Stricklin and UF have not negotiated money or contract with any potential candidates yet.”

3:53 p.m.: In a tweet, Florida ambassador Steve Spurrier debunked a part of the below report involving his preference for the Gators’ head coach. “I am not recommending anyone for the job. We all have complete confidence that Scott Stricklin will make the best choice for our school – and we will support his decision 100 percent,” he wrote. Chomp: Candidly, that’s the one part that was not so similar to what we had heard. However, there are factions at Florida that have made it clear they prefer Scott Frost above any candidate.

1:04 p.m.: This tweet from Darren Heitner, a sports attorney whom I’ve known for nearly 15 years, is similar what OnlyGators.com wrote below and has been hearing today about the coaching search. One addition: Florida does have legitimate interest in Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen, as previously reported by Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel, but the Gators do appear to have focused their search on the former Oregon duo.

11:20 a.m.: Two sources have told OnlyGators.com that Chip Kelly is considered by multiple key parties internally and externally to be a legitimate candidate for the Florida coaching job — which we did not consider him to be as early as Monday — and no longer just someone being vetted for the position. That is a drastic change. The position has neither formally nor informally been offered to him at this time, and contract terms have not been discussed, as first reported by the AP on Tuesday. Reports otherwise are erroneous.

Furthermore, sources close to UCF have confirmed to OnlyGators.com that Nebraska has indeed made its desire to interview (and likely hire) current Knights coach Scott Frost clear to the school. ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg first reported as much on Monday, saying the Cornhuskers made their “intentions known” in regards to their former quarterback. The same sources said Florida has not taken the same steps with the school, though Stricklin clearly stated he would not engage with active coaches until after the conclusion of their regular season. Of course, UCF’s president seems to believe UF will be making overtures sooner than later.

Chomp: In speaking with multiple sources and other individuals associated with the situation, it remains tough to ascertain whether Kelly’s prominence in this search is a result of the aforementioned echo chamber that we have been stuck in this week or is the actual reality of the situation. There is a reason that we — and other national and local outlets — have been extremely cautious in reporting on this search as little verifiable information is coming out of Florida at this time.

Tuesday, Nov. 14 — Day 16

6:12 p.m.: Mark Long of the Associated Press shared that “Florida has NOT talked money or contract terms with anyone being considered for the job” as of Tuesday evening. Chomp: That coincides with everything we are hearing. Many appear to be taking tidbits about Chip Kelly and expanding them well beyond their true meaning or consequence at this time. The greatest takeaway from the coaching search to this point is that Kelly appears to be a legitimate candidate for the Gators — nothing more. If UF is pleased with its vetting and wants to make a move on him, it will do so. But reports that it has gotten that far into the process are premature. Kelly is extremely private, and Stricklin is trying to keep this entire search under wraps. Everyone needs to calm down.

Monday, Nov. 13 — Day 15

3:25 p.m.: As there has yet to be a legitimate report about Chip Kelly and Florida outside of the aforementioned standard vetting, FootballScoop.com decided to weigh in and point out that it has “not heard that from any contacts in the coaching profession.” Chomp: Kelly is notoriously close-to-the-vest, but FootballScoop — which often breaks or at worst confirms coaching moves and hires with tremendous accuracy — would likely have something to sniff if this process was as far along as others are attempting to indicate.

5:35 p.m.: Responding to a message board post that Kelly was a “done deal” (wrong), Florida needed NCAA approval (wrong) and that former athletic director Jeremy Foley is pushing for Charlie Strong to get the job, Stricklin said the following in a tweet: “There is a lot of bad (i.e. incorrect) info out there, but this is a whole other level of bad info.” Chomp: He’s right (obviously), and the noise on this coaching search has already become ridiculous. It seems more like an echo chamber than anything else at this point, and Kelly statements — while they may potentially prove to be true — should be treated as rumors at this point and nothing more.

Sunday, Nov. 12 — Day 14

8:08 p.m.: Everyone that covers the Gators or college football nationally has released their list of candidates for the Florida job. Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports shared his shortly after McElwain’s dismissal and listed three names — Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen, UCF coach Scott Frost and former Oregon coach Chip Kelly. With Tennessee firing Butch Jones on Sunday, Thamel stood by his threesome of candidates two weeks after the fact, adding that “Florida will dictate the market” and noting that the process is ongoing. Citing unnamed sources, Thamel reports that a “thorough vetting of Kelly” at both the NFL and NCAA level has begun as the Gators are waiting until after regular seasons (and potential conference championship games) to speak with coaches currently leading teams.

Chomp: Though I have never believed Kelly to be a true candidate for a variety of reasons — personality fit, stated coaching desires, past NCAA issues — it would be foolish of UF not to vet him for the considering his past successes. This should not be considered a confirmation of internet chatter over the weekend that Kelly is Florida’s choice and has entered negotiations. To this point, that appears to be an erroneous statement simply overblown and repeated in an echo chamber by fans. Could Kelly become the Gators’ coach? Sure, anything is possible. And if Florida is to hire him, it will likely do so before the end of the season in order to make it clear he was its first choice for the job.

Furthermore, statements that Frost would stay at UCF — either due to his new baby, his parents buying a condo in Orlando, his desire to lead the Knights into the Big 12 (that’s absurd), his preference for limited pressure or boosters willing to do “anything” to keep him — are hearsay at this point. Frost could certainly turn down better jobs to remain at UCF as coaches have done that before, but considering his opportunities may be a tremendous program with a wealth of talent like Florida or his alma mater of Nebraska, it would be tough to imagine him swatting away offers from both.

There seems to be a desire from fans to discuss anyone else for the Gators’ opening except Mullen despite him potentially being the best realistic candidate for the job. He is literally everything Florida fans want as a proven offensive mind and quarterback whisperer who can build a program, identify talent and develop players into stars. He would also know exactly what he’s getting into at UF. There are obstacles to hiring Mullen, including a decade of somewhat-bad blood, but one would believe Stricklin can easily mend those fences.

Friday, Nov. 10 — Day 12

The Head Ball Coach appeared on Buddy Martin’s radio show on Thursday and discussed a variety of topics, including Florida’s coaching search. Steve Spurrier expressed confidence in Stricklin, calling him “well-connected across the country. He added: “I believe we’ll have an excellent coach here in 3-4 weeks. … The coach is with his team now. The coach we’re going to hire is probably — I would almost 100 percent say — is coaching his team today, this weekend and through the end of the season and maybe through the bowl game.”

Chomp: This was posted here first and quickly made its way around the internet, though I believe it was a bit overblown and context was lost in translation. While Spurrier is a UAA employee and has more knowledge than most in regards to the search, it is unknown at this time how intimately involved he is with the process. I took those comments with a relative grain of salt, especially because a window of 3-4 weeks (culminating with the end of the season) and a current coach (nearly every candidate except one) are relative givens. More interesting to me was Spurrier’s suggestion that the Gators bring back former players as assistants considering that has been lacking in Gainesville.

Monday, Oct. 30 — Day 1

Shannon holds his first press conference as Florida coach, announces that defensive line coach Chris Rumph has been promoted to defensive coordinator for the remainder of the season. In addition to admitting that the Gators needed some things shaken up, Shannon claims he has no designs on the head coaching ob and is instead simply focused on finishing out the 2017 season.

Sunday, Oct. 29

Florida fires Jim McElwain, names defensive coordinator Randy Shannon as interim coach. Athletic director Scott Stricklin explains the decision was about more than wins and losses. He clarifies that the UAA was negotiating a buyout with agent Jimmy Sexton. Brett McMurphy reports that the Gators will pay around $4 million of McElwain’s $12 million buyout with $3 million going to pay off owed monies to Colorado State and $1 million heading to McElwain.


  1. Michael Jones says:

    Amazes me that all of Gator Nation isn’t chomping for Mullen. Not getting him will be a big mistake, especially if the Vols do.

    • John says:

      Sell me Dan Mullen over Chip Kelly.

      • Michael Jones says:

        SEC guy. Former UF guy. Not a northwest guy. Understands that you have to play defense to win in the SEC. Kelly is gimmickky. Mullen is more solid, more well-rounded, less quirky, more likeable, less likely to wear on the players. Mullen has never had problems with the NCAA, even though he has to recruit in the SEC West against much more desirable programs. What Mullen has done at MSU, given what he has to work with, is amazing, surpassing even Jackie Sherill’s performance there. Mullen would stay. This is his dream job. No telling with Kelly, who is a little full of himself and views himself as a rock star. This is Mullen’s time, man, and if we let him get away a third time, we will be sorry. Give Mullen UF resources, tradition and recruiting, and he will blow away anything Kelly could have done. If Mullen goes to the Vols, he will own us.

      • Michael Jones says:

        Knows how to recruit the south, knows how to recruit Florida, has been building relationships in the south for the past 12 years. Only now he will be selling the UF brand. For me it’s a no-brainer.

  2. T man says:

    Chip sighted at Dunkin Donuts off Archer today. Just saying

  3. martha beers says:

    cant believe this, there is as too much out there saying everything is done its a done deal for it not to be so i think this AP guy is being used by UAA to slow down the flow of information until they are ready to announce it

  4. martha beers says:

    no way there has been NO contact between gators and UF

  5. Joey Secoy says:

    Any update?

  6. Eli Anderson says:

    Is it possible that the plane could be tied to the New Hampshire vs. Florida basketball game?

  7. Michael Jones says:

    We suck to be pursuing Chip Kelly, the 2nd or 3rd best option out there …. only to have him tell us he’d like to talk to UCLA first. Ha ha ha. Hilarious. We deserve that. Stricklin: don’t be another Foley. Sign Mullen while you still can or he and the Vols will kick our asses on a regular basis.

  8. Ceez says:

    To be clear, Feldman DID NOT report that a decision should be made in the next 72 hours. He said, “the next 72 hours should be interesting.”

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