GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Monday had all the normal ingredients of a Florida football press conference heading into a big game.
There was a dash of non-answers from coach Jim McElwain about the quarterback position, a helping of trash talk from the players and a sprinkle of internal optimism that this 3-3 Gators team could head in Jacksonville on Saturday and upset the third-ranked and undefeated Georgia Bulldogs.
And then, unprompted, there was this response from McElwain when asked if his coaching staff should be credited for remaining resilient:
“The hard part is obviously when the threats against your own players, death threats to your families, the ill will that’s brought upon out there,” McElwain said. “And yet, I think it’s really one of those deals that really is a pretty good testament to what’s going on out there nationally. There’s lot of angry people, and in this business we’re the ones that you take the shots at and that’s the way it is.”
Whoa, there. Back up a second.
“Mmm hmm,” McElwain responded before giving little clarity on followup questions.
To add to that, the University Athletic Association released a statement later Monday saying the administration met with McElwain and “he offered no additional details.”
It just adds another layer to the onion that is the Florida Gators’ 2017 season, one in which the Gators have already dealt with their share of noise.
- Florida has had nine players — including starting wide receiver Antonio Callaway and running back Jordan Scarlett — suspended since before the season opener due to alleged credit card theft. Felony charges have been recommended for all nine players, and the case has been in the hands of the State Attorney’s Office since Sept. 25.
- The Gators then proceeded to lose their marquee season opener against Michigan 33-17, putting the fan base on edge early.
- Hurricane Irma forced the cancellation of Florida’s home opener against Northern Colorado and left players wondering about how their families would be impacted by the storm.
- Back-to-back wins against Tennessee and Kentucky came down to the last play but gave fans and players a sense of optimism. That optimism was reaffirmed with a 38-24 win over Vanderbilt. …
- … And then back-to-back home losses by a combined 3 points put the Gators at .500 on the season heading into the bye week and brought .
And, now, death threats.
“You’re in the business,” McElwain said. “That’s all part of it.”
The ebbs and flows of the tumultuous season, sure. But not death threats.
And certainly not what on the outside looks like a head coach of a major football program withholding information from his own administration.
And now, McElwain, his coaching staff and his players have to deal with this extra element of uncertainty and noise on top of trying to turn their season around with an upset win on Saturday. After all, a loss to Georgia essentially ends the Gators’ hopes at winning the SEC East and leaves them fighting merely for bowl eligibility.
“We’re just going to keep moving forward,” Florida linebacker Kylan Johnson said. “We’ve got Coach Mac’s back. We’re just going to continue to be positive moving forward.”