Jim McElwain got paid today, too

More than three years after his final game, Jim McElwain is finally off Florida's books
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The Jim McElwain era at Florida was bizarre before it even began.

Then the head coach of a resurgent Colorado State, McElwain became the the top target for the Florida job once the Gators jettisoned Will Muschamp in November 2014. 

Florida wanted McElwain and McElwain wanted Florida, but there was a problem. McElwain's contract at Colorado State dictated a $7.5 million buyout, an amount Florida was unwilling or unable to pay.

So Gators AD Jeremy Foley embarked on one of the strangest coaching searches in recent memory: he went public. In an industry where ADs hire search firm and conduct clandestine meetings in airports, Foley made no attempt to cover his tracks. Imagine this: An AD with a head coaching vacancy just... went straight to his top target's house.

There was something brilliant in how directly Foley operated. With no guarantee Florida could meet the $7.5 million buyout, Foley's public courtship effectively smoked McElwain out of Fort Collins. By showing how open he was about his interest in McElwain -- and, thus, how interested McElwain was in Florida -- he made the idea of him returning to Colorado State for the 2015 season untenable. 

In the end, Florida paid Colorado State $3 million, McElwain himself paid $2 million, and Florida would pay Colorado State $2 million for a visit to the Swamp. 

So, Florida got its man, and the returns were initially positive.

Having inherited a 6-5 team, McElwain won 10 games and the SEC East in 2015. He'd win the East again in 2016. 

But the line graph of Florida's progress under McElwain, which at first shot straight upward, quickly leveled off. Florida won its division those first two seasons, yes, but the Gators were out-classed in the SEC Championship both times: a 29-15 loss to eventual national champion Alabama in '15, then a 54-16 blowout the following year. McElwain also oversaw the end of Florida's 11-game winning streak over once-rival Tennessee, and he dropped his first two games against Florida State by a combined 58-15.

At a school that basically invented the modern passing offense, whose Mount Rushmore has at least three quarterbacks, McElwain's teams couldn't throw the ball.

Then things started getting really weird.

McElwain responded humorlessly to a viral photo of a guy that looked kinda like him naked atop a shark. "It not only attacked the university, it attacked my family," he said.

As the 2017 season began going south -- McElwain's first under new AD Scott Stricklin, Foley retired in the summer of '16 -- McElwain claimed he got death threats and Florida... we don't want to say they claimed he was lying but how else would you interpret this statement?

The University Athletic Association takes the safety of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and families very seriously. Our administration met with Coach McElwain this afternoon and he offered no additional details.

That event occurred Oct. 25 and McElwain was gone three days later. A 42-7 loss to No. 3 Georgia on Oct. 28 was the end of the McElwain era at Florida, a 34-game run that saw the Gators go 22-12 overall and 16-9 in the SEC.

Except that wasn't the end, at least not financially.

Florida still owed Muschamp $1.5 million at that time and was now on the books for $12.76 million to McElwain. 

The two sides entered negotiations and eventually settled on $7.5 million, the same figure McElwain and Florida originally owed Colorado State.

The McElwain Bowl happened without its namesake. Colorado State came to Gainesville for the first, and likely only, time ever on Sept. 15, 2018; new coach Dan Mullen led the Gators to a 48-10 victory. 

July 1 is Bobby Bonilla Day in certain corners of the sports world, the day the Mets pay off their $29.8 million debt to their former slugger $1.19 million at a time. This July 1 is Jim McElwain Day in Gainesville, because the Gators are finally done paying the coach who stopped working for them three full seasons ago. When subtracting the $2 million he paid to Colorado State in order to take the Florida job, McElwain was paid almost exactly $1 million per win. 

Florida is 29-9 with one SEC East title, two New Year's Six wins and three AP top-15 finishes under Mullen while McElwain, having taken the 2018 season off, is 11-9 with one division title in two seasons at Central Michigan.