Things went from zero to 100 real quick down in The Swamp, as Florida head coach Jim McElwain was relieved of duty on Sunday. Now, at the beginning of the season, McElwain certainly felt pressure from Florida fans and boosters alike.
Despite a 22-9 record at Florida and two SEC East titles in two seasons, the Gator faithful demanded more. So while there were certainly rumblings about his job security, no one could have predicted that the seat underneath him would go from warm-ish in September to blisteringly before October came to a close. Further, no one could have predicted the way in which McElwain would be fired.
All things considered, it’s a wild one, even by college football standards. Let’s recap some of the key moments that led to this decision, shall we?
The Gators started football season off with one of the dumbest scandals in recent memory, where a handful of football players used stolen credit cards to purchase goods from the university bookstore (you can read up on it here, as I teed off about it back in September). So, obviously not the way a head coach wants to start his season. Great.
On the field, the Gators’ September campaign was a mixed bag, but mostly positive. Michigan handily defeated them 33-17 in the season opener, and then Hurricane Irma ripping through the state of Florida brought about the cancellation of their contest against Northern Colorado. From there, Florida strung together three wins against Tennessee, Kentucky and Vanderbilt. Now a win is a win, but Florida needed a Hail Mary and a defensive failure to beat Tennessee and Kentucky, respectively.
So this brings us to October, where everything went straight to hell for the Gators.
On Oct. 7, Florida hosted the LSU Tigers in The Swamp – the same Tigers that, the week before, lost to Troy (TROY!), 24-21 – and laid an egg in ways that only Florida football can. The Gators lost, 17-16, after an incredibly inept offensive performance and a shanked extra point that came back to haunt them.
Add that to a 19-17 loss to Texas A&M the next week and getting completely dismantled 42-7 by Georgia, and it was a wrap for McElwain at Florida.
But before the Gators could even get stomped by the Bulldogs, rumors surfaced on Twitter that Florida boosters were already looking for a way to give McElwain the boot:
Florida is reportedly looking into whether it can fire Jim McElwain without paying his $12.9 million buyout https://t.co/WQ1iFszQqh
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) October 28, 2017
Some of the most trusted people I know at Florida say the McElwain buyout rumors are true. Mac wants out. #Gators
— Mike Gillespie (@MikeABCColumbia) October 28, 2017
Uh oh: ESPN reporting Florida may fire Jim McElwain for cause over his death threats claim https://t.co/tji56ovqDw
— Zach Barnett (@zach_barnett) October 28, 2017
Florida, of course, denied all of this…only to fire McElwain the very next day, on Oct. 29.
And like many college football fans, my first thought upon seeing this news was – Hold up. You mean to tell me Jim McElwain got fired by Florida before Tennessee fired Butch Jones?! What?! WHAT?! FOR REAL. LIKE FOR REAL FOR REAL. HOW?!
Team A: 3rd-year HC, 2 SECE titles, 3 SEC wins
Team B: 5th-year HC, 0 SECE titles, 0 SEC wins
Team A fired its coach. Team B is Tennessee.
— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) October 29, 2017
Real talk, if I was a Tennessee fan, I would be LIVID at this complete malpractice and utter negligence on display from the athletic department right now. How is it that the Gators got a jump on their next coaching search but the Vols are over here twiddling their thumbs about the direction in which their program is going.
And normally, I am not one for just firing and hiring coaches all willy-nilly.
As a Trojan fan, I feel for Florida fans – they’re still basking in and reliving the glory days of Steve Spurrier’s legacy from the 90s. Old Ball Coach was prolific at Florida, and any coach who fails to be Spurrier 2.0 fails to be good enough. USC fans have a very similar attitude, and it’s why it’s such a challenge for anyone to fill the gigantic shoes left by Pete Carroll. It’s not unreasonable to want better for your football program. It’s not even unreasonable to be disgruntled with McElwain for how the 2017 campaign was headed.
But to set a precedent that winning back-to-back divisional titles isn’t enough to maintain job security is going to keep many head coach prospects away from The Swamp, no matter how many Brinks trucks they back up to candidates.
I just…I have many questions for everyone involved. But mainly, I just wanna know why, though? Why now? Why not at the end of the season, when other coaches would be on the table? Why fire a guy with no plan for how to replace him? Is McElwain going to be the next coach to star in the Nick Saban: Fix My Life Coaching Academy? Why does Butch Jones still have a job, though? Why is Tennessee holding strong with a “wait and see” approach when they’ve had five years and have seen absolutely nothing? Why aren’t Tennessee fans rioting over this?
And to think. We still have just over a month of college football left for even more foolery to play out.
I don’t know about you guys, but I can’t wait!