McEl­wain: Florida job a ‘bad sit­u­a­tion’

The Detroit News - - College Football - BY EVAN PETZOLD Spe­cial to The Detroit News Evan Petzold is a free­lance writer.

Jim McEl­wain was in­tro­duced as Cen­tral Michi­gan’s new foot­ball coach last week. And dur­ing his in­tro­duc­tory press con­fer­ence, he said all the right things — in­clud­ing about his past head­coach­ing stop, which didn’t end well at Florida.

“It was a bad sit­u­a­tion. Learn­ing a bunch, I would never give that ex­pe­ri­ence up for any­thing,” McEl­wain said of his time at Florida, from 2015-17. “I think any­time you go through one of those things in life, it gives you an op­por­tu­nity to re­flect.”

McEl­wain was SEC coach of the year in 2015 and 2016, but things went south in 2017.

And Oct. 23, 2017, be­fore tak­ing on Ge­or­gia, McEl­wain claimed he and his fam­ily were re­ceiv­ing death threats.

“There’s a lot of hate in this world and a lot of anger,” McEl­wain told re­porters that day. “And yet it’s free­dom to show it. The hard part is ob­vi­ously when the threats (are) against your own play­ers, the death threats to your fam­i­lies, the ill will that’s brought upon out there.”

Re­porters asked McEl­wain to shed in­sight re­gard­ing the na­ture of the threats, but he re­fused. He added he would not con­tact law en­force­ment. That same day, Florida’s ath­letic depart­ment re­leased a state­ment say­ing McEl­wain “of­fered no ad­di­tional de­tails” through­out a fur­ther con­ver­sa­tion in re­gard to the al­leged death threats.

“The Univer­sity Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion takes the safety of our stu­dent-ath­letes, coaches, staff and fam­i­lies very se­ri­ously,” univer­sity spokesman Steve McClain said in the state­ment. “Our ad­min­is­tra­tion met with Coach McEl­wain this af­ter­noon, and he of­fered no ad­di­tional de­tails.’”

Two days later, McEl­wain said he was wrong to cite the death threats.

But then, im­me­di­ately fol­low­ing Florida’s 42-7 loss to Ge­or­gia on Oct. 28, McEl­wain said he would stand by his state­ments.

McEl­wain was fired by Florida two days later, his ten­ure over af­ter just 34 games — at a to­tal cost to the univer­sity of more than $25 mil­lion. Florida paid his pre­vi­ous stop, Colorado State, $7.5 mil­lion to buy out his con­tract, then paid him more than $10 mil­lion in salary, and then gave him a $7.5 mil­lion buy­out — which in­cludes a stip­u­la­tion he can’t speak neg­a­tively about Florida in pub­lic. That buy­out is still be­ing paid; he is owed $2.5 mil­lion, with $1 mil­lion com­ing in 2019, $1 mil­lion in 2020 and $500,000 in 2020, in ad­di­tion to his Cen­tral salary that pays him more than $600,000 in an­nual base pay.

At his Cen­tral press con­fer­ence, McEl­wain said he had fond ex­pe­ri­ences of the play­ers and oth­ers from his Florida days.

Af­ter a year as Michi­gan’s wide-re­ceivers coach, McEl­wain his back in the head-coach­ing arena. He was hired by ath­letic di­rec­tor Michael Al­ford — the two knew each other from their days at Alabama.

The 56-year-old coach said he’s learned from the en­tire sit­u­a­tion that tran­spired at Florida.

“Go­ing through, there were a lot of things that went into it,” McEl­wain said.

“We learn from those things. Do I wish I would’ve (sought) out ad­vice from peo­ple I worked with? Ab­so­lutely, all right. It’s some­thing that hap­pened, and we’ve moved for­ward.”

McEl­wain takes over a Cen­tral team that fin­ished 1-11 over­all and 0-8 in the Mid-Amer­i­can Con­fer­ence last sea­son, the worst mark in pro­gram his­tory. He said he’s al­ready used dis­ci­pline as an in­fu­sion for a new cul­ture sur­round­ing the pro­gram, call­ing for his play­ers to fix their pos­ture, fo­cus and speak non-ver­bally.

McEl­wain said he is com­mit­ted to Cen­tral and ready to add an­other chap­ter to his re­sume, with dis­trac­tions be­hind him.

“The big­gest piece is to look back, do a to­tal in­ven­tory and mov­ing for­ward, be­ing able to in­cor­po­rate what I learned as we build a great place right here at Cen­tral Michi­gan,” said McEl­wain, who signed a five-year deal.

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Im­ages

Jim McEl­wain was fired as head coach of the Florida Ga­tors dur­ing his third sea­son. He was named Cen­tral Michi­gan coach last week.

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