Make no mistake. Florida’s Athletic Director Scott Stricklin flexed his ultimate muscle on Sunday and with the backing of his bosses, fired Jim McElwain.
You can debate the semantics and phrasing of “mutually agreed, it’s time to part ways,” but the bottom line is: after being blown out by rival Georgia Saturday, McElwain isn’t the coach on Sunday night, because Stricklin wanted to be rid of him.
Even though he said in a prepared statement, “I like coach Mac. I think he’s a good man. I want to thank him for his time serving as our football coach,” actions speak much louder than prepared words.
And, at Sunday night’s news conference, Stricklin’s tone and body language in answering questions made it clear he wanted and almost had to have change, now.
So, starting with the bizarre statement last Monday news conference, where McElwain alluded to “death threats” towards “coaches and players,” and then, his team almost sleepwalking through the game in Jacksonville Saturday, it lead Florida to have to make the decision, right now.
“I need to make the best decision for the Florida Gators and our student athletes,” Stricklin said when answering a question about the next head coach.
But, he might has well been talking about the head coach who had seemingly “checked out” on his team as the week progressed.
Speculation, and some of it not entirely out of line, was that McElwain was looking for a way to exit Gainesville and try to keep some, or most of the near $13 million that Florida owed him.
Things were expedited when Georgia came out throwing haymakers and led 21-0 before most Gator fans were comfortable in their seats.
Off that performance, Stricklin could not wait for the end of the regular season to address the situation.
And he told the media that he met with his head coach, whom he did not hire, on Sunday morning. Obviously, McElwain did nothing in that meeting to fight for keeping his job and re-assuring his new boss that he and his program could regroup this season and beyond.
Or, he would still be the head coach.
Instead, McElwain departs and we may learn soon with how much of the Gators buyout money and under what conditions, if he takes a new job elsewhere, too.
Stricklin now has the defining hire of his short tenure.
Gator football has been substandard, especially offensively, for seven years now.
This is what the new AD wanted.
Now, it’s his job to hire the right guy to fix it.
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