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.

Sunday, Nov. 26 — Day 28

1:19 p.m.: USA Today‘s Dan Wolken reports that UCF head coach Scott Frost passed on even speaking with Florida about its open coaching job, though he went back-and-forth about it.

12:55 p.m.: FootballScoop.com reports that Florida was of the belief it would score UCF head coach Scott Frost … until former Nebraska legend Tom Osborne called Frost and told him “it’s time to a come home,” a message that Frost “understood.”

Multiple sources tell FootballScoop Florida went strong on Scott Frost…with several sources over the past few days telling FootballScoop Florida officials felt, despite Frost’s obvious connections to Nebraska, that they would wind up securing Frost as their next head coach. While that still might happen, a source told FootballScoop last night, Tom Osborne called Frost yesterday and told him it was time to come home. We were told Frost understood the message.

12:50 p.m.: Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel reports that Florida is going after Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen.

12:33 p.m.: USA Today‘s Dan Wolken notes that Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen is attempting to “wait out” Florida, presumably in hopes it comes after him while going through its list of candidates. Tennessee also seems to be in the mix for Mullen’s services. Chomp: South Florida head coach Charlie Strong is not necessarily a candidate for a ton of openings, but he is also seriously hoping the Gators call him for the open position. It has not been a secret that Strong has made overtures for the job, and OnlyGators.com has been told he’s reached out for the position through more than one avenue.

2:45 a.m.: After tweeting that things were “too quiet” on the Scott Frost-to-Nebraska front, ESPN host Chris Fowler responded to a fan comment with a curious statement, saying he believes a reunion between Frost and his alma mater has been “done for awhile I’m told.” Chomp: Fowler obviously did not send this out on his public feed, and though he’s not a reporter or insider per se, he’s one of ESPN’s most high profile football personalities and certainly runs in circles where he would know such information ahead of time. Again, Fowler is not reporting anything as fact, but for him to first insinuate this and then go so far as to say “done for awhile” should definitely be concerning to Florida fans wanting Frost.

Saturday, Nov. 25 — Day 27

4:20 p.m.: Relating the conditions of Chip Kelly deciding to go to UCLA as referenced earlier (see below), Sports Illustrated‘s Bruce Feldman notes that Florida’s six-person committee impressed Kelly when it visited him in New Hampshire. “Both sides thought the meeting went well,” he wrote. “A source close to the coach told SI that Kelly liked and was very impressed with UF brass and that made his decision harder. But in the end, he felt he’d be a lot more comfortable living on the West Coast with the situation UCLA offered him than he would in Gainesville.”

2:50 p.m.: FootballScoop.com reports that Nebraska has already had contact with UCF head coach Scott Frost’s representatives, but the Cornhuskers have also vetted Virginia Tech’s Justin Fuente and are interested in Iowa State’s Matt Campbell. Chomp: I believe Fuente would be a legitimate home run hire for any school that nabs him — if it can — from Virginia Tech, and I said as much in our coaching candidate tiers story (see above).

2:23 p.m.: Nebraska has made its pursuit of UCF head coach Scott Frost public. During a press conference about the firing of Mike Riley, Cornhuskers athletic director Bill Moss said the following. “Scott [Frost] is someone I’m considering. But I am sensitive to [the fact] that he is still coaching a team.” Chomp: No $#!^. But for a school to be this public about a candidate, as you can see below, either means it is extremely confident or setting itself up for potential failure.

10:25 a.m.: Chip Kelly will be UCLA’s next coach with a deal being finalized before the end of the weekend, reports Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel. From Thamel’s report: “The appeal of living in Los Angeles, coaching in the Pac-12 and being able to blend in were key motives for picking the Bruins.“ Chomp: It does ultimately seem like Kelly’s decision was less about UF and more about his unique preferences, which is why UCLA was an understandable and attractive opportunity.

10:20 a.m.: ESPN spent a portion of its “College GameDay” show discussing UCF head coach Scott Frost, his offense and whether he’d be a better fit at Florida or Nebraska. Check it out below. It was noted by the network earlier in the show that Chip Kelly would not be on air Saturday as he mulled the direction of his career. With UCLA having played on Friday night, a Saturday announcement is possible for Kelly if he chooses to go in that direction.

Friday, Nov. 24 — Day 26

5:46 p.m.: USA Today confirms other reports that Florida is no longer in the running for Chip Kelly, but it also notes that does not necessarily mean Kelly is heading to UCLA because Under Armour is a major sticking point for Kelly, a close friend of Nike founder Phil Knight. In fact, Kelly may wait for other opportunities to open before making a decision.

Sports Illustrated’s Bruce Feldman reports that Mississippi State is prepared to “go all in” for Dan Mullen with a contract off potentially around $6 million per season. Mullen said after the Egg Bowl loss on Thursday that he is planning on returning to coach the Bulldogs.

5:20 p.m.: Though athletic director Scott Stricklin has said he would not comment on specific candidates, it is interesting that he felt it necessary to speak today. The summation of his words? Trust the process.

4:04 p.m.: ESPN reports that Florida is planning to meet with UCF head coach Scott Frost’s representatives in Orlando “this weekend” and that it also has Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen and Oregon’s Willie Taggart … along with West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen and Washington State’s Mike Leach as candidates.

Chomp: This is the first I’ve heard of Holgorsen or Leach as a legitimate candidate for the Gators, and it would truly shock me if they entered into discussions with either. That’s not to say it won’t happen, but it would truly be surprising.

2:44 p.m.: Yahoo Sports reports that Florida has moved on from Chip Kelly, who is “out of the picture” and “no longer a possibility” for the Gators job, and will now focus on UCF head coach Scott Frost.

Chomp: Well, that escalated quickly. We will have additional commentary and thoughts on this coming up shortly.

2:30 p.m.: FootballScoop.com, in speaking with a variety of coaches across the industry, believes the “prevailing logic” is that Chip Kelly will choose UCLA over Florida and that the Gators will then turn to UCF head coach Scott Frost as their next top candidate. The website also reports that neither school has begun speaking with additional candidates at this time but that South Florida head coach Charlie Strong is hoping that Florida comes calling.

Chomp: We’re providing this update because it’s the lone item of any consequence that has been published by a reputable outlet since end of day Wednesday. Nevertheless, considering the website goes out of its way to indicate that its information is not coming from Kelly, his agent or the schools, it should certainly be taken with a grain of salt at this time. That said, the information that Strong is trying to make it clear he wants to coach the Gators is relatively common knowledge, as is the fact that Florida would pursue Frost if it does not get Kelly. Considering Mississippi State is reportedly, according to Sports Illustrated’s Bruce Feldman, doing whatever it can to keep Dan Mullen (including a potential offer of $6 million per season plus an increase in staff pay), UF’s options may be slimming if it does not land Kelly — and if Frost either chooses to stay at UCF or move to his alma mater of Nebraska.

Wednesday, Nov. 22 — Day 24

8:33 p.m.: In speaking with industry experts, including two high-powered agents not intimately involved in this particular search but aware of the negotiations, OnlyGators.com has been told that it was believed that Chip Kelly was on his way to Florida as recent as early Wednesday. And while some are starting to think otherwise after UCLA’s pitch and insertion into the process, most still hold that belief. Kelly’s greatest hesitation at this time is believed to be the pressure that comes along with coaching and recruiting in the SEC compared to that of the Pac-12, a conference he has already dominated and that is of great familiarity to him. More than anything else, it is believed that Kelly is “just playing the game” at this time, which lends to the below report that he is looking to extract more from the Gators, whether that is decision-making power, money, etc.

8:25 p.m.: CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd reported late Wednesday that Chip Kelly is expected to make his decision on Sunday. He further disputed reports that Kelly had already chosen UCLA and noted that Kelly had previously entered into a “non-binding agreement” with Florida. Furthermore, Dodd reported that “Florida and Kelly are believed to be going back and forth” on retaining current assistants with defensive coordinator Randy Shannon being one of those mentioned.

Chomp: It would truly be shocking if the Gators allowed assistants — particularly Shannon — to stand in the way of hiring Kelly, a coach who went 46-7 in his lone run as a head coach on the collegiate level. Kelly making a decision on Sunday appears to be a no-brainer at this point, though the non-binding agreement adds another level of intrigue to a situation that has been reported in a variety of ways at this point.

2:15 p.m.: The Orlando Sentinel’s Edgar Thompson, citing a source, reports that Florida never formally offered Chip Kelly a contract, which directly counters reports that the Gators received his signature in any way. This was previously reported by SB Nation‘s Richard Johnson on Monday.

Chomp: Reminder that this “chomp” section is both analysis and commentary. Grouping everything that has been reported and confirmed over the last 48 hours together, it is starting to look less and less like Florida will ultimately be Kelly’s chosen destination. That does not mean the Gators will not land Kelly. It just seems to be trending in the other direction. For a UF source — we assume — to share this information sure makes it look like it is preparing to move on and claim that Kelly was never offered the job in an effort to save face.

12:47 p.m.: This was posted earlier Wednesday morning, but we missed it. Chip Kelly’s former boss at Oregon, Mike Bellotti, told ESPN.com that he believes Kelly would ultimately take the Florida job over UCLA for myriad reasons. “People think he’s got the success on the West Coast, but the reality is he’s an East Coast guy,” Bellotti said. “… UCLA is a very good job. I’m not sure I could say it’s a great job.”

11:48 a.m.: Bruce Feldman reports that Chip Kelly and UCLA did indeed meet on Tuesday … but not in Los Angeles.

10:26 a.m.: USA Today‘s George Schroeder reports that offers to Chip Kelly have been “in the range of $6 million per year” and that he turned down interest from Tennessee and possibly Nebraska as well. Furthermore, he points out that “a potential sticking point” for Kelly may be that UCLA is an Under Armour school, while Kelly has a famously great relationship with Nike founder Phil Knight, the primary booster at Oregon. Chomp: Hey, at least Florida is a Nike school.

10:25 a.m. — Chomp: One plausible explanation or the variety of reports that have come out about Chip Kelly, Florida and UCLA has not been considered to this point. Kelly may have actually agreed to — or even signed — something with the Gators when the parties met on Sunday. But if he did put pen to paper, perhaps that contract either had a delayed execution date and/or opt-out clause of a week, giving Kelly the opportunity to change his mind without penalty. That would explain why many on Florida’s side considered the Kelly hire a sure thing and simultaneously why he has had the opportunity to legitimately speak with UCLA over the last few days. Consider the tweet below. Also consider this. Back in 2012, it was believed Kelly was headed to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to become their next coach with the deal on its way to completion when Kelly changed his mind and stayed at Oregon. One year later, he joined the Philadelphia Eagles.

9:38 a.m.: Confirming reports from Tuesday, ESPN’s Mark Schlabach tweeted that Chip Kelly did indeed meet with UCLA on Tuesday and actually flew out to Los Angeles to do so. Furthermore, Kelly is reportedly receiving a “full-court press” from former UCLA star quarterback Troy Aikman. Furthermore, Schlabach reports that Kelly will decide between the Gators and Bruins “in the coming days” with no other team in the mix.

Chomp: So Florida flew five athletic department officials and its president to New Hampshire, but Kelly left his home and flew across the country to meet with UCLA, its megadonor and Aikman? Draw whatever conclusion you would like from that.

Tuesday, Nov. 21 — Day 23

9:52 p.m.: LandryFootball.com reports that Chip Kelly’s agent met with UCLA on Sunday, the same day Florida flew to New Hampshire to meet with Kelly himself. It also notes that Kelly’s meeting on Tuesday with two senior athletic department officials and the Bruins’ heaviest donor “went well” The discussion with the Bruins appears to have centered around donor commitment and Kelly potentially having the necessary funding to build the program he wants from multiple standpoints.

Chomp: Landry is quite plugged into this industry. Kelly’s agent meeting with UCLA on Sunday certainly debunks prior reports that the sides had no legitimate contact at that time. If this report is accurate and Kelly’s primary concern regarding UCLA was its financial commitment, there is a case to be made that may have been his lone reservation with the Bruins. UCLA bringing out the big guns in Casey Wasserman, the founder of the former megapower management company Wasserman Media Group, is a massive revelation. If Wasserman promises Kelly to give him whatever he needs to win — such as Nike founder Phil Knight did for him at Oregon — Kelly-to-UCLA may be more real than anyone believed 24 hours ago.

8:52 p.m.: In news that some Florida fans certainly do not want to hear, FootballScoop.com reports that Chip Kelly has now met with “UCLA’s contingent” and that a third program — one without an opening at this time — has been in touch with Kelly’s agent about his availability. Chomp: That third team is likely Texas A&M as Tennessee’s job is already open. This is certainly an interesting development and — if accurate — further runs contrary to reports and rumors that Kelly and the Gators have already come to some form of an agreement. It could also be a counter by Kelly’s camp to the report from 5 p.m. about Florida preparing to consider other candidates.

5:01 p.m.: Here’s what The Gainesville Sun‘s Pat Dooley had to say in response to the report below. By “the [49ers] thing,” Dooley is referring to rumors that Florida needs to wait until Sunday to make a Chip Kelly hire official so he does not lose $5 million owed to him by San Francisco. Chomp: The Yahoo report did not suggest the Gators were “moving on” from Kelly, only that it was getting ready in case it had to. That is relatively obvious. The plain and simple of it is that Florida wants an answer from Kelly by Sunday because it feels this process has dragged out long enough. That’s a fair stance to have.

3:09 p.m.: Florida is reportedly “preparing to widen” its coaching search to include a pair of previously reported candidates in UCF’s Scott Frost and Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen, according to Yahoo Sports, which notes that the Gators and Chip Kelly are “believed to have been in contact throughout the month of November” as soon as Jim McElwain was dismissed. Furthermore, it is being reported that Kelly has undertaken “a deliberate evaluation of Florida.”

Chomp: Though some are of the belief that the Gators and Kelly have already come to some sort of agreement, this report is a clear indication of Florida attempting to make a power play and strong-arm Kelly into making a decision by Sunday. If a deal had already been made, as some have suggested, there would be no reason for UF to get this information public. As we have noted previously, it is no surprise that Kelly is taking his time in making this decision. Whether the Gators are getting frustrated that this process has been extended to such a degree or Florida is legitimately concerned about losing out on Kelly remains to be seen. Either way, assuming this is not a smokescreen from UF’s side (which would be possible albeit confusing), it is some indication that things are not as solidified as others have believed at this time.

Monday, Nov. 20 — Day 22

3:27 p.m.: 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.: 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.


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