New Central Michigan football coach Jim McElwain met the media Monday in Mount Pleasant. The Detroit News
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 head-coaching 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.
Evan Petzold is a freelance writer.