Jim McElwain’s increasingly likely departure from the Florida football program is the product of a perplexing melodrama.
The winner of back-to-back SEC East titles during his first two years on campus, it would seem as though he had created enough goodwill to have a down season without risking his job. But here we are after seven games, with ESPN reporting that the administration is discussing whether it can fire McElwain with cause following some comments made on Monday concerning alleged death threats issued to himself, his family and his players.
The move could potentially save the university the cost of a $12.9 million buyout, but that still doesn’t answer the question of why the administration would be so eager to cut bait after a half season of struggles.
McElwain’s struggles on offense seem like the easy answer on the surface, but Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi explains it has much more to do with his personality in an article titled “Gators will fire McElwain because of his arrogance, not his offense.”
Bianchi explained why he believes Florida AD Scott Stricklin, who was apparently not informed of the alleged death threats before McElwain took them public, is so upset with McElwain:
“The reason UF was so angry is two-fold. First, if there were death threats to players and UF’s administration did nothing to protect them, the Gators could be legally liable for a mega-million-dollar wrongful death lawsuit. Second, if McElwain exaggerated the death threats or made them up entirely, then he effectively painted UF’s entire fan base as a bunch of blood-thirsty lunatics who threaten to kill their coaches and players at the first sign of adversity.”
Bianchi believes that McElwain has rubbed his superiors the wrong way from the time he stepped on campus by “complaining publicly about the facilities, questioning the school’s commitment to excellence and essentially denigrating the administration.”
When you combine those two accusations together, it creates the potential for a real toxic work environment.
Following a 42-7 loss to Georgia on Saturday, McElwain has little to point to in the way of recent on-field product to help his fate.