Florida coach Jim McElwain fails to clarify death threat comments when given chance

By Adam Silverstein
October 25, 2017
Florida coach Jim McElwain fails to clarify death threat comments when given chance

Image Credit: ESPN Images

It’s been two days since Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain vaguely said that death threats — and other threats — had been levied against coaches, players and their families. Despite the elapsed time period, there were just as many questions Wednesday when the topic was brought up again as there were on Monday.

Following his initial statement, in which McElwain attributed the threats to there being “a lot of hate in this world and a lot of anger,” he denied multiple follow-up questions. Later in the day, the University Athletic Association released a statement ending with a particularly odd five-word phrase.

“The University Athletic Association takes the safety of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and families very seriously. Our administration met with Coach McElwain this afternoon, and he offered no additional details.”

It is clear that some rift has been created here. Either McElwain, another coach or one of their family members received a legitimate death threat that he’s choosing not to turn over to authorities … or he was using the term as an absurd generality when bringing up — on his own accord — fan unrest surrounding the program and its inability to show progress three years into his tenure.

Asked to clarify the situation on Wednesday during the SEC teleconference, McElwain unleashed a word salad of confusion that left more questions than it did provide answers.

“I’m a real passionate guy. … What I tell our people not to do is let one or two misguided remarks get to you,” he said. “The care I have and the passion for these players, this university and the fact that we have an unbelievable fan base — it’s great. There’s passion. When you go into that Swamp, it’s something special, and our guys feel it.

“Yeah, I do, I feel bad for sometimes being open and being honest. And yet, at the time same time, I’ve seen this movie and understand it and, if it gets to the point, we’ll go from there.”

If it gets to what point?

“When it becomes unmanageable at that point, like I said, I’ve got a lot of care and care for this program and these people,” McElwain continued. “At the same time, allowing a couple things [to] get to you, you know what, you can’t do that. And ultimately, that’s the business we’re in. We’ll move forward and get ready to go play this ballgame.”

Here’s the problem: Threats upon one’s well-being should not only become a problem when they become “unmanageable.” Nor should someone casually throw out that they are being threatened in that manner if that is not the case. It’s either one or the other, and through two press events and more than 48 hours, we do not know which is the case.

McElwain’s comments and inability to follow-up on them not only make Florida fans look bad, by proxy they hurt recruiting and are growing further seeds of distrust within the UAA.

The Gators are dealing with this mini-firestorm — created by their coach — during a week in which they are going up against a fierce rival who is a 14.5-point favorite in the teams’ biggest regular season game each year.

Not a good look. Not good timing. Not good.


  1. Gatormatic says:

    Adam…do you think McElwain makes it past the FSU game? After the LSU and TAMU losses, I thought for sure he’d get one more year. But this is completely different from on-field performance. This is something Mac could be fired for (if no evidence of death threats is ever actually revealed). This whole thing just took a really weird turn that I no longer see McElwain surviving.

    • I went from 10 percent to 50/50 at this point. I have no confidence that Florida will win any of its remaining games except UAB. So if he winds up 4-8 or 5-7 … how can that be explained and supported?

  2. Freddy Johnson says:

    Actually would be nice to hear more from the university on this matter, or from someone else besides Mac. Apparently to add to Mac being an offensive guru, he is also a private detective and a certified hostile thread negotiator or manager. Not saying the threats didn’t take place, I’m sure they did, but let the appropriate handle and manage the response.

    I’m so over this guys incompetence and manner in which he carries himself at press conferences. He acts like they are a joke and is really unprofessional. I’ve taken flack for saying this elsewhere, but when your the ambassador and the face of the franchise, carrying yourself and speaking in public in professional manner is of up most importance.

  3. Ron says:

    He needs to man up and admit he lied. He’s in an untenable situation to keep insisting that these threats occurred AND he has no obligation to involve the administration or police. As Freddy points out, coaching football and evaluating the veracity of threats of murder are very different skills. How the heck would McElwain know the difference between manageable threats and unmanageable ones?

    For whatever reason, he had a brain fart and said this thing, probably to try and point out how extreme the atmosphere can be, and exaggerated to make his point. And now he feels he can’t take it back. He also can’t report it, without email records and phone records being pulled that demonstrate he’s lying.

    The administration should give him two offers, 1) be fired today, or 2) renegotiate his contract to remove any buyouts if he’s fired later.

  4. Ancient Gator says:

    Coach Mac has gone from being quirky to being sort of sad. He often seems lost during news conferences, and I really can’t see parents trusting their young sons to his care. I was worried when 9 of his players got into felony serious trouble, but this is even stranger. If he wins more than two more games this year it will be a miracle, and no matter what the win-loss record, he’s going to have a tough time recruiting. It’s just a matter of time before the University loses complete faith in him. Sad situation.

  5. mike says:

    After we lose Saturday, can Spurier take over the rest of the year till we find a great coach?

  6. Rick Traub says:

    Just listened to the press conference. Why does he sound so miserable and depressed. Sounds like a damn family member died. He claims he is passionate and then sounds like he’s freaking miserable to be coaching this team.

    I’ve head enough of him and his arrogance demeanor.
    We will get hammered by the dawgs.
    Who knows against Missouri and South Carolina. But we barely beat 2 terrible football teams in Kentucky and Tennessee. I have zero faith this team can scored when needed.

    I fear we are stuck with him another year

  7. rich says:

    what’s with all this smoke the past few days about Mac not happy? How did he go from back to back SEC East winner to stories this week about how he’s not appreciated? The University then doesn’t back him up after his weird death threat lie or exaggeration. That is telling. UF says, without facts Mac you’re on your own.. That is a very public stance. Now ESPN has a story about this could be heading for a divorce? (I know, it’s mostly clickbait but it’s more smoke. I’ve read Gator Boards talking about how this will affect the recruiting class..

    What the hell has happened? How did we get here in just a couple of weeks.

  8. Freddy Johnson says:

    That is the part that I don’t understand – Is why does McElwain think he walks on water? The only reason the gators have been in the news since aug is for negative reasons and a hail marry by franks. Every day its more negative press. Its getting old. Gets even older when your not winning football games or putting out a competitive entertaining product.

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