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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Column: A look at the biggest accomplishments, biggest failures of McElwain’s tenure

<p>Jim McElwain walks off the field after Florida's 42-7 loss to Georgia on Saturday at EverBank Field in Jacksonville. On Sunday, it was confirmed that McElwain and the UAA mutually agreed to part ways.</p>

Jim McElwain walks off the field after Florida's 42-7 loss to Georgia on Saturday at EverBank Field in Jacksonville. On Sunday, it was confirmed that McElwain and the UAA mutually agreed to part ways.

Jim McElwain is out as Florida’s football coach. What were some of his best and worst moments during his time at UF? Let’s take a look:

Best Moments:

Back-to-back SEC title games:

This goes at the top of the list.

There was no better indication of McElwain’s early success at Florida than the fact he won the SEC East twice in his first two years with the team, earning back-to-back trips to Atlanta and the SEC Championship Game.

And McElwain knew it.

Whenever reporters criticized UF’s lackluster offense — the side of the ball McElwain was hired to help fix — the coach constantly referred to the fact that he was also brought here to win, and his teams had done that. Just look at where they ended the last two years, McElwain would say.

Yes, McElwain lost both times to Alabama, first 29-15 in 2015 and then 54-16 the year after. However, the fact still remains: earning two consecutive trips to the title game was an impressive feat.

30-3 win in Outback Bowl:

McElwain’s first and only bowl win came in January, when the Gators defeated an 8-4 Iowa team in Tampa.

On the surface, the win doesn’t appear very impressive.

But at the time, it was.

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McElwain had been embarrassed in Florida’s previous bowl game — a 41-7 loss to Michigan — to end his first season.

And while Iowa was nowhere near as talented as that Michigan team, which would go on to have a 10-3 season the following year, the Gators proved that Iowa was clearly outmatched by defeating the Hawkeyes by 27 points.

Worst moments:

The death threats:

It’s difficult to pinpoint one exact moment that began McElwain’s downfall, but Oct. 23 seems to be as good of a place as any.

On that day, a Monday, McElwain walked into his usual weekly press conference and announced, unprompted, that players and coaches on his team and their family members had received death threats, but provided almost no other information. Later that day, the University Athletic Association released a statement saying that it had spoken with McElwain but the coach “offered no additional details,” essentially distancing itself from McElwain while making it look like the coach was either not forthcoming or wasting everyone’s time.

That was the start of a tension-filled week for McElwain and Florida, one in which rumors began to surface that the UAA was seeking a buyout of McElwain’s contract.

The UAA and McElwain appeared out of sync, and the entire week was a bad look for both.

42-7 loss to Georgia:

On Saturday, Florida suffered its most embarrassing defeat under McElwain, a 35-point loss to Georgia, one of its biggest rivals. Florida barely avoided being shut out thanks to a last-minute drive in the fourth quarter led by backup quarterback Malik Zaire.

During the game, McElwain’s body language said it all: He constantly paced the sideline, his hands on his hips as he stared at the turf.

And after the game, McElwain looked like a man resigned to his fate, resting casually against the lectern while answering questions about his job security.

One reporter asked: Would it surprise you if you lost your job tomorrow?

“Nothing in this world surprises (me),” he said.

Ian Cohen is a sports writer. You can follow him on Twitter @icohenb and contact him at icohen@alligator.org

Jim McElwain walks off the field after Florida's 42-7 loss to Georgia on Saturday at EverBank Field in Jacksonville. On Sunday, it was confirmed that McElwain and the UAA mutually agreed to part ways.

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