Jim McElwain’s year could not be going worse.
After back-to-back SEC East titles (followed by crushing defeats in the SEC Championship Game), the Florida Gators have started the 2017 season 3-4, and are largely underperforming based on their preseason hopes.
In his weekly press conference leading into Florida’s blowout loss to the Georgia Bulldogs, McElwain addressed the negativity the team is facing regarding the rough start to the season.
During his answer, he referenced “death threats to [your] families”, in response to the poor start. Despite further questions, McElwain refused to elaborate to reporters; however, he also refused to elaborate when university officials pressed him for details. Here is his exchange with reporters during the press conference:
On Monday night senior associate athletic director Steve McClain issued this statement on behalf of the university:
“The University Athletic Association takes the safety of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and families very seriously. Our administration met with Coach McElwain this afternoon and he offered no additional details.”
Talk surrounding McElwain’s future as coach heated up today when Darren Heitner, a writer for Forbes and an alumnus of Florida, tweeted this morning that boosters for the university were pooling money in anticipation of hiring a new coach.
Source: Boosters have been called to pool $ in anticipation that Gators will soon be hiring new head football coach— Darren Heitner (@DarrenHeitner) October 28, 2017
Florida has thus far denied that they are considering buying out McElwain’s contract. AD Scott Stricklin issued this statement this afternoon:
"No one representing the University of Florida or our athletic department has had any conversations with Coach McElwain or his representatives regarding a buyout of his contract. Our focus is on this great Florida-Georgia rivalry today in Jacksonville."
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.
The university could buyout McElwain for $12.5 million, but, if he stands by his death threats story and continues to withhold the evidence supporting his claims, he could be fired with cause and Florida would avoid the large payout.
It is unclear where this story will go and how much longer McElwain will be coaching the Gators, but it will be interesting to see what happens as this story develops.