In his first year as head coach Jim McElwain led the Florida Gators to a 10-win season and the SEC Championship game. More importantly, he made his boss very happy.
“We never put wins and losses expectations on our coaches, we just want them to get the program moving in that direction,” Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley said on Saturday. “[You would] be hard pressed to say it’s not moving in the right direction.”
McElwain was dealt a rough hand. In his first spring camp he had to deal with trying to design an entire camp around the fact that he was given just six, and soon five after Rod Johnson’s injury, scholarship offensive linemen. Florida had inexperience at quarterback as well. Of the 15 offensive linemen that Florida used in 2015, 13 of them were underclassmen. Then, after finally settling on a quarterback, Will Grier was suspended for the season due to violating the NCAA’s policy on performance enhancing drugs.
“To sit here and look at a team that won 10 games, that made it to Atlanta, made it to a January 1st bowl game in our first year with some, probably some holes, and I think that’s a reflection on Coach Mac and his staff,” Foley continued.
McElwain did a great job this season, but the most impressive job he has done in Gainesville may have been in hiring his staff. Florida’s assistants deserve as much credit as McElwain for the Gators’ turnaround and Foley has made a commitment to the assistants as well. Both Geoff Collins and Randy Shannon have bonuses structured into their contracts that will kick in if the coaches remain at Florida through February. In fact, Doug Nussmeier and the rest of the new coaching staff also have raises in their contracts as well. The commitment that Foley has made to McElwain and the staff is evident and it’s showing already as Florida has mostly navigated through the coaching carousel season unscathed.
“You knock on wood,” Foley said when asked about staff continuity this season. “Obviously there’s some NFL jobs out there and you never know what the domino effect is there but right now our staff is here.”
Florida’s unexpected success this season, the recruiting efforts of the coaching staff and the ability to keep the staff intact are paying dividends on the recruiting trail. Those recruiting efforts have fans and Foley feeling good about Mac’s Gators.
“I give all that credit in the world to Mac, he thoughtfully and deliberately found those guys and they’re all good Gators and right now they’re still Gators and I’m confident that’ll continue to be.”