The Florida Gators lost to the Georgia Bulldogs 42-7 in Jacksonville, and head coach Jim McElwain is now out of a job.
The program announced it was “mutually” parting with the coach on Sunday, while “currently negotiating terms of separation.” Brett McMurphy reports McElwain may receive just $4 million of a nearly $13 million buyout.
On Saturday evening as the game was ending, ESPN’s Ed Aschoff reported that Florida is considering firing McElwain with cause, due to his claims of death threats earlier this week:
After failing to find any evidence to substantiate claims made by McElwain this week that family and players received death threats, Florida administrators have worked to see if McElwain's allegations were enough to relieve the university from paying McElwain's full buyout of $12.9 million if he were to be fired.
Sources told ESPN that they believe the university has enough cause to fire McElwain without having to pay his buyout. Sources also said that if McElwain were to be relieved of his duties, defensive coordinator Randy Shannon would be asked to be the team's interim coach.
Tampa Bay Times Florida reporter Matt Baker responded to Aschoff’s report with additional reporting:
I've been told that they don't think they can. https://t.co/LL6zhycNr6— Matt Baker (@MBakerTBTimes) October 28, 2017
McElwain seemed to sense that this was coming.
“Well, I mean, at the end of the day, we all — were brought here to win, Gene, and we haven’t done it,” McElwain told reporters via The Independent Florida Alligator’s Matt Brannan. “My concern isn’t about my job, my concern is about these players, our staff. We’ve got a fantastic staff — coaches, support staff, their families. That’s the concern, you know, it isn’t about me.”
Reporter: Have you been told anything?
“I haven’t been told anything,” McElwain said. “Like I said, the first i was made aware that something was out there, was going into the pregame meal. And I visited with our guys in that meal about whatever was popping up — but, no.”
Earlier in the day, a sports agent reported Florida had already begun discussing a buyout, which UF AD Scott Stricklin publicly denied.
He was also asked if he talked to Stricklin about anything:
“There’s been no conversations about that,” McElwain said. “I mean i talked to him when he was down here on Thursday. I talked to him on the phone, we had just some normal talk about what was going on and stuff, but no, nothing along those lines.”
Reporter: Would you be surprised if you aren not the coach after today?
“Well, nothing in this world surprises me,” McElwain said. “I know what I was brought here to do — look we haven’t been good on offense, I get it. We’ve won a few games, but we haven’t won enough — haven’t won a championship. “Thats real, that’s life, that is this business. And I take full responsibility for all of it.”
On Monday, McElwain implied that he and some of his players have received death threats:
I think it’s a pretty good kind of lesson for the way things are. There’s a lot of hate in this world and a lot of anger. And yet, it’s freedom to show it. The hard part is, obviously, when the threat’s against your own players, death threats to your families, you know, the ill will that’s brought upon out there. And yet, you know, I think it’s really one of those deals that really is a pretty good testament to what’s going on out there nationally. A lot of angry people. In this business, we’re the ones that you take the shots at. And that’s the way it is.
McElwain declined to elaborate further.
Hours later, Florida released a statement saying that the Gators said the coach “offered no additional details” about threats facing him, his family, or other Gators.
When asked on Wednesday about the death threats, he didn’t give too many further details.
Mac said will share details on threats 'when it becomes unmanageable.'— Edgar Thompson (@osgators) October 25, 2017
A few potentially relevant portions of McElwain’s contract [emphasis added]:
The Coach, at all times during the Term, shall comply with Laws, University Regulations, and Governing Athletic Rules and shall exercise due care that all persons (including without limitation student athletes and coaches) subject to the Coach’s supervision, control and/or authority shall also so comply. For the purpose of this Agreement and the Activities Agreement, any material, substantial, and/or repetitive failure of Coach to exercise such due care or to so comply…shall be a material violation of this Agreement.
And on the subject of firing with cause:
…the Coach’s fraud and/or dishonesty in any other context, whenever occurring and whether or not relating to the Coach’s employment, that may adversely reflect on and/or affect the reputation, mission and/or interests of the University and/or the Association
... whether or not relating to the Coach’s employment, during the period of the Coach’s employment by the Association, any failure by the Coach to report promptly to the Athletic Director any violation of Laws, Governing Rules and/or University Regulations by any person…where the violation is known to the Coach
McElwain led Florida to back-to-back SEC East titles in 2015 and 2016, and he is 22-11 during his short career in Gainesville.