Florida parts with coach Jim McElwain after three straight losses in third season
McElwain led UF to consecutive SEC Championship Game appearances in his first two seasons
A tumultuous week in Gainesville culminated with what seemed like an inevitability when Jim McElwain walked off EverBank Field with a sheepish grin following Florida's 42-7 loss to Georgia on Saturday. He knew his time was up.
The Gators announced Sunday that they have agreed to part ways with McElwain. Defensive coordinator Randy Shannon will serve as interim head coach for the remainder of the season as Florida (3-4) looks to become bowl eligible with four games left.
McElwain and Florida athletic administration have reached a settlement after negotiating his buyout, according to athletic director Scott Stricklin, though the deal has not yet been signed.
"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."
At a press conference Sunday night, Stricklin said he wanted to see the Florida offense become "fun again."
McElwain's buyout is estimated at more than $12.75 million. On Saturday, news leaked that Florida was looking for ways to fire McElwain without cause, hoping to see the amount of the buyout reduced in negotiations with agent Jimmy Sexton. Florida will also have to buy out any assistants not retained by the next coach.
McElwain tweeted about his feelings at leaving Florida.
McElwain won SEC East titles in each of his first two years with the program and became the first coach in league history to advance to the SEC Championship Game in his first two seasons, but he did so amid massive offensive struggles that he was brought in to correct following the four-year Will Muschamp debacle. In Year 3, with a roster filled with players he recruited, the program took a massive step back defensively, got off to its worst start since 1986 and heads into November as a potential underdog in three of its last four games.
The news comes after a, when he mentioned during his weekly press conference that his family had received death threats following the slow start to the season -- something that didn't seem to sit well with an administration that was unaware of them at the time. Florida released a statement later that day saying that, in a meeting with officials, McElwain provided "no additional details" regarding any specific threats.
That seemed to be the straw that broke the camel's back in a relationship that, despite two straight SEC East titles, had gone south behind the scenes due to McElwain's often-public pleas for athletic department initiatives to be accelerated.
The SEC Coach of the Year in 2015 was 22-12 during his 2 1/2 seasons in Gainesville, 16-8 in SEC play. Prior to his time at Florida, he spent three seasons as the head coach at Colorado State, where he went 22-16 and led the program to a 10-3 record during his final season with the program in 2014.
He won two national championships (2009, 2011) as Alabama's offensive coordinator prior to landing the gig in Fort Collins, Colorado. It was that offensive success in Tuscaloosa with 2009 Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, quarterbacks Greg McElroy and AJ McCarron and wide receiver Julio Jones that seemingly made him a perfect fit for Florida after the ill-fated Muschamp era of offensive futility.
But Will Grier -- his primary quarterback during his first season with Florida before he transferred to West Virginia -- was suspended midway through the season for performance enhancing drugs, an incident that stymied any offensive momentum McElwain generated. Grier claims McElwain told him it would be better for all parties if they parted ways, leading to Grier's transfer to WVU. Treon Harris, Luke Del Rio, Austin Appleby and Feleipe Franks all started games over the next two years under center for the Gators, but the offensive struggles persisted.
For the very latest recruiting fallout from Jim McElwain's firing, check out GatorBait.net. They're on the ground in Gainesville with up-to-the-minute coverage, including updates on who will be the Gators' next coach and how the future of the team will be changed forever. Visit now!
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