Over the past two seasons, Florida Gators fans haven’t had much to cheer about. With a total of 13 losses and a litany of missed opportunities and a fired head coach, it’s been a rough time to be a supporter of the Orange and Blue.
Saturday’s introductory press conference of new coach Jim McElwain had a twofold effect for Gator Nation. In addition to meeting their coach, the fan base was provided with something they haven’t had in some time.
Yes, introductory pressers are carefully crafted by the university’s media departments, and yes, it is easy to look good coming off the heels of the Will Muschamp era. It’s also easy for a coach to be full of smiles when he hasn’t coached a game, but for what McElwain’s day was supposed to be, he passed the first test with flying colors.
Be affable? Check. Show your humorous side? Check. Show you understand the importance and prestige of Florida football? Check.
McElwain was as on as anyone could be with their first day with the media. He expressed this being a dream of his, as well as talked about the prestige Florida has, and his focus on returning the Gators back to prominence. He came off personable, using self-depreciating humor many Alabama and Colorado writers can attest to. At one point he even asked school president Bernie Machen if he wanted to tailgate for the Gators’ upcoming bowl game.
In 38 minutes, McElwain showed more charisma and personality than Urban Meyer and Will Muschamp had throughout their time at Florida. He was more bar companion than head coach, a style Gator fans haven’t seen since Steve Spurrier. After four years of a no-nonsense, hard-nosed style of football and media dealings the smiles and anecdotes were a welcome change.
While a press conference will only gain so much favor with the fans, it could be symbolic of the changes Florida is looking to make. Instead of defense-first approach to the game, the Gators are looking to get back to the strong offensive attack Florida has been known for. With talented on the offense, McElwain will have tools to work with as he rebuilds on that side of the ball.
Time will tell how McElwain does with the Gators. In the coming weeks, he’ll have to solidify his coaching staff, evaluate the players on the team, and finalize the commitments for the 2015 recruiting class. Some challenges have already been presented, as three recruits have been lost due to the coaching change. The Gators have already lost running back Matt Jones to the NFL Draft, with the possibility of more declaring soon.
There will be a lot of work to do in order to bring Florida back to the level Gator Nation has been accustomed to. However, Saturday’s presser was a step in the right direction. In McElwain, Florida has a coach that understands the task ahead of him, embraces it, showing charisma and providing an optimistic outlook along the way.
It’s a breath of fresh air for a fan base stifled by the toxic fumes of losing over the past two years.