In a bizarre and baffling turn of events, there are those within the inner sanctum at the University of Florida who believe Florida Gators coach Jim McElwain’s controversial death threats might be as bogus as the infamous shark photograph.
Question undoubtedly being asked by McElwain’s bosses at UF: Why did the Gators coach tell the media on Monday that he has received death threats from fans without ever telling his own administration?
Question undeniably being asked by McElwain: Why did his own administration at the University of Florida release an oddly worded statement that seemed to question whether McElwain really did receive death threats?
It’s becoming more and more clear that UF’s head football coach and UF’s administration are not on the same page. The lack of communication between the football coach and athletics director Scott Stricklin is eye-opening. Seriously, who gets angry, hateful death threats and tells the media before he tells his own administration?
Obviously, something is awry here and you can’t help but wonder if this is the beginning of the end of McElwain’s tempestuous tenure at UF. There is very clearly a rift between McElwain and his superiors over this very serious issue.
A deadly serious issue.
During his weekly news conference Monday, McElwain – without prompting – nebulously broached the issue of getting death threats in the wake of losing two consecutive home games and the Gators dropping to 3-3 this season.
“I think it’s a pretty good lesson for the way things are,” McElwain said. “There’s a lot of hate in this world and a lot of anger. And yet, it’s freedom to show it. The hard part is, obviously, when it’s threats against your own players, death threats to your families, the ill will that’s brought upon (you) out there. 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 a lot of angry people. And in this business, we’re the ones you take the shots at. And that’s the way it is.”
McElwain would not expand on the nature of the threats with the media – nor with UF’s own administration. This obviously did not sit well with UF’s administration, which released a statement Monday pointing out that McElwain wasn’t forthcoming with details of the alleged death threats.
“The University Athletic Association takes the safety of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and families very seriously,” UF’s Athletics Association spokesman Steve McClain said in a statement. “Our administration met with Coach McElwain this afternoon and he offered no additional details.”
Question: Why would UF release such a strangely worded statement bringing into question the authenticity of the death threats? Why did UF feel the need to tack on those last five words … “He offered no additional details.”
Most university statements would cover for its coach and say something to the effect of, “The University Athletic Association takes the safety of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and families very seriously. We are supporting Coach McElwain and his family in any way we can.”
Instead, UF’s statement said, “He offered no additional details.”
I would not be writing this column and you would not be reading this column if not for those five words; those five suspicious words that make it sound like somebody is hiding something.
“He offered no additional details.”
There are many questions to be answered here. First and foremost, why would McElwain share the information with the media in the first place – without sharing it with university authorities? If somebody threatened to kill you or your family or your players, wouldn’t you want the authorities looking into it?
Secondly, by going public and telling the media you are getting death threats, it paints the entire university and its fan base in a negative light. What purpose does that serve – especially when the death threats presumably have gone unchecked and not been reported to the proper university authorities?
It makes you wonder if McElwain simply started talking during his Monday press conference and somehow veered in an unintended direction that led him to start speaking in vague generalities about angry fans who threaten coaches. Isn’t it possible that McElwain’s nebulous rambling turned into fake news and a false narrative?
Or perhaps McElwain is simply a desperate coach under immense pressure who is looking for some much-needed sympathy.
Or maybe he is, in fact, a good coach and a good man who is telling the truth and being victimized by the lunatic fringe of college football fandom.
Whatever the case may be, it would be wise for McElwain to clarify the situation and tell his own administration about the death threats he either did or did not receive.