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John Raoux/Associated press
Florida has parted ways with coach Jim McElwain a day after a third consecutive loss and nearly a week after he said his players and their families had received death threats, a person familiar with the situation told the Associated Press.
Athletic director Scott Stricklin made the announcement Sunday and named defensive coordinator Randy Shannon the team’s interim coach for the final four games.
The parties are negotiating McElwain’s $12.5 million buyout.
Florida (3-4, 3-3 Southeastern Conference), which is still paying former coach Will Muschamp, would like to significantly reduce McElwain’s sum and could use his actions over the last week as leverage.
Regardless of the outcome, McElwain’s tenure will be remembered for failing to fix a floundering offense. Three years ago, McElwain proclaimed he could win with his dog at quarterback. The Gators currently rank 113th in total offense, in triple digits nationally for the third time in McElwain’s three seasons.
McElwain went 22-12 with the Gators, including 4-9 against ranked teams, and became the first coach in league history to take a team to the SEC championship game in his first two years. Florida was eliminated from contention in the Eastern Division with a 42-7 loss to rival Georgia on Saturday. It was Florida’s most lopsided loss in the series since 1982.
McElwain’s downfall was more about relationships than records.
His already-strained rapport with administrators reached a new low last Monday when he said Florida players and families had received death threats. The bombshell shocked athletic director Scott Stricklin, who had not been previously notified about a potentially harmful situation.
Stricklin met with McElwain later that day, and the coach rebuffed a request to provide more information about the threats. The athletic department responded with a statement that essentially criticized McElwain for being uncooperative.
The school’s position was basically this: If there were death threats and administrators did nothing about them, the Gators would be legally liable if something horrible happened; if McElwain exaggerated the threats or made them up altogether, then he essentially sullied an entire fan base without merit.
McElwain made the situation even worse two days later when he said he would provide more details about the death threats ‘‘when it becomes unmanageable.’’
McElwain seemed resigned to his fate Saturday night.
‘‘I know what I was brought here to do. Look, we haven’t been good on offense, I get it,’’ he said. ‘‘We’ve won a few games, but we haven’t won enough. We haven’t won a championship. That’s real. That’s life. That is this business, and I take full responsibility for all of it.’’
McElwain’s problems started long before last week.
The former Alabama assistant and Colorado State head coach complained publicly about Florida’s facilities shortly after taking the job and openly questioned the school’s commitment to the football program two years later. His initial comments came while the Gators were planning to build an indoor practice facility and his most recent ones came after they had announced plans to build a $60 million, stand-alone football facility.
His comments rubbed Florida officials the wrong way.
Georgia moved up to No. 2 and took two first-place votes from top-ranked Alabama in a major reshuffling of the top 10 in the Associated Press poll.
Every team in the top 10 except idle Alabama changed positions in the poll released Sunday following Ohio State’s last-second victory over Penn State and Iowa State’s 14-7 win over TCU. The Crimson Tide finished with 59 first-place votes, and Georgia snared two after turning the ‘‘World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party’’ into a 42-7 runaway over rival Florida.
Ohio State moved up three places after rallying to beat then-No. 2 Penn State, 39-38 , Wisconsin climbed one spot to No. 4 and Notre Dame rounded out the top five by moving up four places.
Iowa State made the biggest jump in the poll, climbing 11 spots to No. 14.
The Cyclones have their highest ranking since being No. 9 on Oct. 13, 2002, after moving into the poll for the first time in 17 years a week ago.
Iowa State became the first team to beat two top-five teams before Nov. 1 since Florida in 2005 after knocking off the Horned Frogs and then-No. 3 Oklahoma. The Cyclones went 3-9 last season, their first under coach Matt Campbell.
The Cyclones (6-2, 4-1) are tied with TCU (7-1, 4-1), Oklahoma (7-1, 4-1), and Oklahoma State (7-1, 4-1). But Iowa State has wins over both the Sooners and TCU — and the Cowboys have to visit Ames on Nov. 11.
Not bad for a team that has never won the Big 12 and was picked ninth in the preseason league poll.
Even though Iowa State has become one of the nation’s most remarkable stories, the chances the program makes the playoff are extraordinarily slim because of early losses to Iowa and Texas at home.
Iowa State finishes with three of its last four on the road as well, starting Saturday at West Virginia (5-3, 3-2). The Cyclones play at Baylor (0-8, 0-5) and at Kansas State (4-4, 2-3) after hosting Oklahoma State.
Alabama was ranked No. 1 for the 99th time, passing Notre Dame for third on the all-time list. Ohio State has the record with 105 times at No. 1, and Oklahoma is second at 101.
Arizona, one of the season’s biggest surprises, climbed into the poll at No. 23, after beating then-No. 15. Washington State, 58-37.
In his fourth straight spectacular performance and the team’s fourth consecutive victory, Khalil Tate rushed for 158 yards and a touchdown and passed for 275 more and two scores.
Arizona (6-2) can take the Pac-12 South lead with a victory over No. 17 Southern California on Saturday.
South Florida (7-1) dropped out of the poll from No. 17 following a 28-24 loss to Houston.
UMass quarterback Andrew Ford, who was taken off the field on a stretcher Saturday during the 30-27 win over visiting Appalachian State, was released from Cooley Dickinson Hospital on Saturday evening. His availability to play at Mississippi State Nov. 4 will be determined during the week.
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