Florida reaches buyout settlement with Jim McElwain, and it may be relatively fair

By Adam Silverstein
October 29, 2017
Florida reaches buyout settlement with Jim McElwain, and it may be relatively fair

Though final paperwork and signatures are still needed, Florida Gators athletic director Scott Stricklin announced Sunday night that the program “reached a settlement in principle” to part ways with now-former head football coach Jim McElwain.

McElwain — in the first season of an recently extended six-year, $26.9 million contract — had buyout terms of $2.5 million for each season remaining in his deal, a total of nearly $13 million. The Gators, having just bought out Will Muschamp in 2014 and believing they had a case to split with McElwain for cause following his unsubstantiated allegations of death threats on Monday, hoped to reduce that sum significantly in order for both parties to walk away from the situation amicably.

Details of the buyout have not been released at this time, but long-time college football reporter Brett McMurphy notes that McElwain may receive “only $4 million” — one third of his buyout — due in part to McElwain’s recent actions and agent Jimmy Sexton’s reluctance to battle with Florida.

Sexton, a powerful agent who represents a wide swath of coaches in both the college and professional ranks, may also wind up representing whomever the Gators choose to hire as McElwain’s replacement. Engaging in a lengthy battle over McElwain’s contract while simultaneously attempting to negotiate with Florida for another party would be an uncomfortable and potentially dangerous situation for both parties.

McMurphy reports that $3 million is still owed to Colorado State for McElwain’s buyout — $1.5 million from each party — and a $4 million mutually agreed upon buyout could settle that debut while simultaneously allowing McElwain to pocket $1 million to walk away.

If McElwain had never mentioned death threats on Monday, there’s a good chance he not only remains employed by Florida this week but through the end of the season. His decision to make that claim and compound the problem by failing to provide any proof to his bosses with the Gators suddenly opened the door to a potential for-cause firing as McElwain appears to have potentially violated the standards clause in his contract.

“[The undersigned must act] in the Association’s and University’s highest standards of professionalism, competence … personal and professional conduct, ethics, integrity and morals, as such highest standards are determined by the President or Chairman in consultation with the Athletic Director.”

Legal experts have argued whether Florida would actually have a case if it attempted a for-cause firing, but the buyout settlement has made that point moot. All that’s left is for the agreement to be signed and the Gators to move on. Florida will likely have to pay out a number of its assistant coaches as well following the season, a sum that could surpass $5 million.

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