The Back Nine: Bad fit top reason for McElwain’s dismissal


Georgia coach Kirby Smart,left, and then-Florida coach Jim McElwain meet at midfield after Georgia beat Florida 42-7 Saturday in Jacksonville. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

The Back Nine comes at you after the second strangest week of my career and, believe me, that’s saying something. The Urban Meyer 48 Hours episode in 2009 is still No. 1.

10. When Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin said Sunday night that the decision to “part ways” (and I cannot put enough sarcastic quotations around that) with Jim McElwain was not all about football, he’s speaking the truth. But to think it had nothing to do with football would be a fantasy. All you have to ask yourself is this question — would McElwain have been let go if the Gators were 7-0 right now? Stop laughing. I still think the team he had in June was good enough to be a top-10 team. But, this team is a leaking shell of that team. This dismissal had to do with everything. You want me to badign percentages?

• The bad fit part (which includes a lot of things) — 70 percent.

• The bad offense part — 13 percent.

• The death threats part — 12 percent.

• The suspensions part — 4 percent.

• The talking in circles part — 1 percent.

Was this decision a good look for Florida? Nope. The only thing that can be considered a negative when looking at this top-10-in-America job from the outside is the quick hook Jeremy Foley obviously pbaded along to Stricklin. But the past cannot be changed and it’s time for Florida fans to move along without staring at the wreck at the side of the road. It can be great again. Try to be patient this time.

11. Anyway, I know who the next coach will be. Really, I figured it out. It will come from this pool:

• Dan Mullen, Mississippi State.

• Chad Morris, SMU.

• Jeff Monken, Army.

• Jim Mora, UCLA.

• Philip Montgomery, Tulsa.

• Bronco Mendenhall, Virginia.

• Mike MacIntyre, Colorado.

• Gus Malzahn, Auburn.

One of them for sure. It’s a lock. Because isn’t it a law that every post-Ron Zook UF coach has to have a last name that starts with an “M”? Meyer, Muschamp, McElwain? OK, it isn’t an actual law, but I had you going there for a second. Look, anything anyone tells you is simply media speculation and you are going to hear more of that from here, there and everywhere. But the answer is simple. Take the top five or six coaches who want to be the next UF head coach and rank them based on what they have accomplished. Then crosscheck them with their ability to handle the expectations and mesh with the culture. And only one name emerges. I just don’t know who that is.

12. Think about this — whoever the next coach is faces an opponent that is difficult to beat. I’m speaking of Mother Nature.

• Ron Zook — had a game postponed because of a hurricane (Middle Tennessee) and rescheduled, killing his bye week. Fired during that season after a loss at Mississippi State.

• Will Muschamp — had a game canceled by severe weather (Idaho). Fired that season after a loss to South Carolina.

• Jim McElwain — survived the loss of one game and one moved game in 2016, but Momma came back with a flurry, cancelling a game against Northern Colorado the following year. Fired this season after a loss to Georgia.

Urban Meyer’s genius was in not getting any games canceled or postponed. It shows you the value of staying on schedule. I think.

13. What if I told you that it is 2008 and Florida just beat Miami the day before 26-3 and the Miami coach barely touched the Florida coaches hand when they were supposed to shake after the game and a day later said this at a news conference — “I’ll just say this one statement: Sometimes, when you do things and people see what type of person that you really are, you turn a lot of people off. Now whatever you want to get out of that, I won’t say it again. But it helped us. It helped us more than you’ll ever know?” And what if I told you that Miami coach is now the head of the Florida Gators? You’d be freaked out, right? I like everything interim head coach Randy Shannon had to say Monday. It’ll be nice to hear him more than once a year and it was obvious he didn’t agree with some things that were happening under the previous regime. Wait. Did I just type previous regime? About McElwain? This is just too strange.

14. Let’s move on. I thought the Heisman Trophy race was pretty much closed before Ohio State beat Penn State and stuffed Saquon Barkley after his opening kickoff return in the process. Right now, it feels wide open again. I even think Bryce Love got back in it by not playing so we could see how bad Stanford’s offense is without him. But that’s just me. A Heisman voter.

15. When Tom Verducci published his Sports Illustrated report about the balls being different and hurting the pitchers in the World Series, it felt like a giant mess. Then we watched Game 5 and we have all decided, “more slick balls, fewer swings and misses.” Who was the ad wizard who came up with the idea of changing the balls (old Saturday Night Live sketch reference)? That game and this World Series have been to die for. And I realized while watching Sunday night that I never made a World Series prediction so here goes — I like it to go at least six, maybe seven. Thanks. I’ll be here all week. Please tip your waitresses.

16. Tiger Woods is coming back to competitive golf. Maybe I should feel inspired and give those weekend scrambles another try. Seriously, it’s great for golf as a sport but not if he throws a bunch of 78s out there. We need Tiger to be competitive if we’re going to flip away from football at the end of next month. On another golf note, you should check out the new fairways at Ironwood. They were worth the wait. The ball sits up like it’s begging to be hit. And yet …

17. The Tweet of the Week comes from my friend and college football writer Brett McMurphy — “Tip for next UF coach: UF’s 66 yards pbading vs. Georgia lowest since 60 yards vs. South Carolina in 2014. Will Muschamp fired next day.” You add that gem in with my earlier weather note and this thing starts to get spooky on Halloween.

18. So Paul McCartney Tweeted something out about setting clocks back Sunday and it really threw off my whole day because he was a week early. That Paul! Anyway, add in a rare Sunday night of work and a very sad funeral Monday and it has already been a different week. I need a playlist to cheer me up:

• “Chateau” by Angus and Julia Stone.

• “Always Ascending” by Franz Ferdinand.

• “Sweet Mary” by Weezer.

• “The Wilds” by Henry Jamison.

• And for an old one because we were having the Jethro Tull belongs in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame discussion on the elevator in Jacksonville, “Life Is A Long Song” by Jethro Tull.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at [email protected] And follow at



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