Florida Gators fire coach Jim McElwain in third season after 3-4 start

By Adam Silverstein
October 29, 2017
Florida Gators fire coach Jim McElwain in third season after 3-4 start

Image Credit: ESPN Images

The Florida Gators pulled the plug on Sunday. The Jim McElwain era is officially over. The 24th coach in Florida football history has been ousted less than 24 hours after UF suffered its worst loss to rival Georgia since 1982, a source confirmed to OnlyGators.com on Sunday afternoon. UF announced the parties mutually agreed to part ways early Sunday night.

The process unfolded rather slowly on Sunday as Florida is asking McElwain to negotiate a buyout less than the $12.76 million due him if fired without cause. Discussions with athletic director Scott Stricklin and other members of the administration are ongoing and a settlement has not been finalized. UF reportedly believes it has reason enough to split with McElwain on a for-cause basis over unsubstantiated comments he made about death threats on Monday.

“We want to thank Coach McElwain for his efforts in leading the Gator football program,” said Stricklin. “We are confident Coach Shannon will provide the proper guidance to the players and rest of staff during this time and we will begin a national search for the next head coach.”

Defensive coordinator Randy Shannon will serve as the Gators’ interim coach over the final four games of the season.

McElwain, who became the first coach in league history to advance to the SEC Championship Game in his first two seasons with a team and was named 2015 SEC Coach of the Year, finishes 22-12 (16-8 SEC) with better winning percentages than his predecessor.

Despite those accolades, McElwain’s Gators looked even less fit to compete against top competition on a national stage. Florida was 0-6 with blowout losses to the three best teams it played under McElwain’s tenure in Alabama, Florida State and Michigan. UF was 4-8 against ranked opponents and 13-9 in games decided by more than a touchdown.

“Look, we haven’t been good on offense. I get it,” McElwain said after Saturday’s loss, his third straight. “We’ve won a few games, but we haven’t won enough, haven’t won a championship. That’s real. That’s life. That is this business. And I take full responsibility for all of it.”

Though they have one of the best specialist duos in the nation, the Gators’ special teams fell off a cliff. Due to lacking recruiting, Florida was ill-prepared to replace the bevy of talented defenders recruited by Will Muschamp who either left early for the NFL or graduated.

Compounding a 109th-ranked scoring offense this season is a 66th-ranked scoring defense, Florida’s worst-ranked defensive unit since at least 2000. While the Gators’ offense struggled over the last seven years, prior to 2017 they were always able to hang their hat on shutting opponents down defensively.

Beyond on-field performance, McElwain’s tenure has been wrought with dysfunction, including controversy over the way McElwain publicly berated running back Kelvin Taylor for a hand gesture, hand-wringing following the suspension and subsequent transfer of quarterback Will Grier, and questions about program discipline as nine players are presently serving indefinite suspensions for credit card fraud.

Furthermore, McElwain repeatedly clashed with UF administration. Though many of his demands — such as a larger indoor practice facility and improvements to the program’s infrastructure — were legitimate, he often painted the Gators in a bad light as either cheap or needing to be forced to make necessary changes. The final straw came this past week when McElwain made a claim during a press conference that the team had been subject to death threats only to not follow up when the administration requested more information so it could ensure the safety of its coaches, players and their families.

Florida decided it needed to do immediately what had to be done eventually and cut ties with McElwain midway through the season — a year earlier than the program rid itself of Muschamp in 2014 but nearly the same time it parted ways with Ron Zook in 2004.


  1. SW Fl Joe says:

    Should be interesting to see what changes if any are made to the offense going forward.

  2. Kelly says:

    I will be your coach damnit I am a 48 Florida raised man Born in Hawaii I because a Gator fan back in 1985 I remember kerwan bell qaurterback we haven’t had a QB since tebow I,ll coach 407-496_1315

  3. 1974Gator says:

    Holy Sh%t! This is a very bold move by Stricklin. He now has to land a HBC that : 1) will, in fact, deliver both offensively AND defensively; 2) will impress the recruits we have commited and keep them on board; 3) announce someone fast; 4) and will finish out the recruiting on the key, uncommitted kids we don’t have in our tent. It would be ideal if he is an x-Gator or someone familiar with the politics and tribulations of coaching at UF. Could Stricklin have already gotten Mullen’s agreement to come down?

    • WJP says:

      Don’t know if Mullen would be good or bad but you don’t fire a Coach during the season and don’t already have one ready to take his place. Hate it happened but it did. Go Gators.

    • Michael L. Jones says:

      Mullen would do a great job. He is doing a consistently good job at a school that has–among other things–inferior facilities, inferior tradition, an inferior recruiting base, and in the much tougher division.

  4. Mike The Red says:

    Who would want to coach at Florida? You get fired after two and a half years. They’ll get fired before they can build a program.

    We have become toxic. No one worth a darn will touch us.

  5. PHD says:

    Toxic? One of the most high profiled coaching jobs in college football….i think anyone worth a damn would jump at the chance to coach at UF.Lets face it,the top coaches have an ego as big as the great outdoors,what better way to fuel that ego than to take a once powerful program from the depths of mediocracy back to the top

  6. Anthony says:

    While I’m not happy to see him go I think he is a good coach but I don’t think he was ready for the Florida job. One of his main issues I noticed was that he always seemed unsure about things and was to loyal. If I was a coach I would have gotten a new oc or started calling plays third season. I would have also gotten a better special teams coach. And a secondary coach because the one we have now is letting our secondary have to many mental issues. Also he seemed to always blame the defense this yr but barely ever the offense. everyone knew this yr our defense would take a step back and couldn’t carry us like before so the offense had to step up but they are worst hell at least the defense has shown some progress. I hope we go after a offensive coach who is balance with run and pass play calls and is aggressive.

  7. G2 says:

    Wow, at least this AD can pull the trigger and make a move, that says something.
    We won’t have to flounder an extra year like Foley did with WM

    Can’t screw this one up after 2 big misses. Wanted Kirby and got Muschamp, wanted Mullen and got Mac.

    Get the feeling it will be Mullen or Frost.

  8. KB says:

    Wow… that escalated quickly.
    I guess as his predecessor once moved quickly on the inevitable; Strickland has now done so too. We all as Gator fans want this Football program to succeed and rise above all others. I am a bit shocked that it happened this year but maybe Mac wanted to go and with his statements, action or inaction, he no doubt forced the hand that once employed him. Much as in life and for us all, you either take care of business or the business takes care of you. I would like to see a proven coach with a resume of winning at a high level pilot this ship and unite the fan base first and foremost. I am desperately hoping for that home run hire and I hope we find that person. In all weather Gator fans!

  9. Ralph says:

    Pack up Nussmeier on your way out too ! He is a major part of the problem too

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