GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Jim McElwain realized the story wasn’t going away, or it was made clear to him that the questions weren’t going to be quelled until he offered more context or explanation to the death threat comments he made Monday.
So he brought it up on his own Wednesday evening in his regularly scheduled post-practice media session.
He again did not offer any details, other than to say the threats he referenced happened in the past and that they were anonymous. He still would not confirm or deny whether they were levied at him or his family specifically, or otherwise specify to whom they were sent. And he indicated that he did not really understand the statement the University Athletic Association put out Monday night stating that he declined to provide details about the threats.
But he did talk about it Wednesday, responded to questions that he had brushed off two days earlier, and in general indicated that he feels he shouldn’t have even brought up the matter in the first place.
“You know, I speak to our guys all the time and the people within our organization about shutting out the noise and not letting the clutter get to you. And obviously you guys know me well, sometimes things are on your mind and I go ahead and speak it. And it doesn’t make it right,” McElwain said before any questions had been asked.
“And yet at the same time, it’s letting one or two — and don’t even know who — get into you and not recognize how great our fan base is, obviously, and the people associated with this program that are here for you to help in any way.
“I’ve been doing this a long time, and obviously allowing the clutter to get to you is just not what it’s all about, so we’ll move on. Obviously our guys are aware of it and we’ve talked about it, and we’re ready to go play Georgia and move forward.”
McElwain’s comments Monday were eyebrow raising. Certainly most college football fans understand that there is a crazed fringe capable of crossing the line in regrettable ways. Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin dealt with racist hate mail and a veiled threat earlier this season.
The part that elevated this particular story, though, was McElwain’s refusal to offer context or details, and then that awkward statement from the UAA that mentioned “our administration met with Coach McElwain this afternoon and he offered no additional details.”
“I think we had a good talk about it. In fact, it happened in the past. It wasn’t just spur of the moment. It’s just something that came up and obviously was on my mind. That doesn’t make it right to air that laundry, and yet at the same time they’ve got total support,” McElwain said when questioned about not providing details to Florida’s athletic administrators.
With that part of the matter no clearer, he was asked again if the statement from the UAA was misinterpreted by people and if there had indeed been a more in-depth discussion with administrators about the death threat claims.
“Yeah, you know, I don’t really quite understand what even the statement was. We visited with [athletic director Scott Stricklin and executive associate AD for internal affairs Laird Veatch] and, yeah, they were really good and supportive,” McElwain said.
He reiterated that turning it into an issue was counter to the message he sends to his players to block out external noise. He said it was “probably out of character” to raise the issue publicly rather than take it “as a grain of salt.”
And so there weren’t going to be any more details provided. Just an attempt to put the issue to rest by acknowledging that the story had mushroomed in the last couple days.
McElwain understandably wants to focus on Georgia. Whatever questions fans or reporters (or the UAA) still have about the nature of the death threats he mentioned Monday will likely remain questions at this point.
“I understand that’s the news. It goes with the territory. … And yet, just how much I care about this program and these players, obviously everything that goes in with it, but ultimately allowing one or two and who knows even who it was, right? You don’t know, it’s anonymous,” he said. “So that is what it is. I’m confident we’re all right.”