Three months after being introduced as Florida athletics director, Scott Stricklin met with boosters in Lakeland, Fla., in early January. He talked about fundraising, academics and athletic achievements, among other non-tangible items, including relationships.
"To really understand this place, I needed to get out and meet as many Florida Gators as I could,'' Stricklin said. "Relationships are so important in this business. That's the reason I'm here. I want to start building those relationships."
While he may have meant every word he said eight months ago, he clearly doesn't understand the importance of relationships with student-athletes.
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On Saturday, reports surfaced that the Gators' administration was gathering donors in hopes of buying out the contract of head football coach Jim McElwain. It's not ideal that this information leaked hours before Florida was scheduled to play Georgia in Jacksonville, but leaks happen so we'll give Stricklin a free pass. No one can contain every piece of information and he shouldn't have addressed it with the players before the game.
However, on Sunday morning, following the Gators' blowout loss, it was reported that the administration was meeting with McElwain. Hours later, multiple sources told multiple media outlets that McElwain had been fired. The same reports said the coaching staff and players had not yet been notified.
So, was he fired?
Florida receiver Josh Hammond is literate. He can read, isn't stupid and had no idea what was happening.
I’m confused ¯_( ˘͡ ˘̯)_/¯
— Josh Hammond (@J_Hammond10) October 29, 2017
Minutes later, Football Scoop reported it was official, which means the players were definitely notified, right?
Wrong, says quarterback Luke Del Rio.
Gotta love finding these things out through twitter…. a heads up would’ve been nice
— Luke Del Rio (@Ldelrio12) October 29, 2017
Stricklin or one of his compadres had time to tell the press but not their players. They had time to leak bits of information but never bothered telling the players.
It's undoubtedly a chaotic time for Stricklin, who has never been responsible for dismissing a head coach, but that's no excuse. The student-athletes and "relationships" are his top priority and the minute the decision he was made, he should've gathered the players and done nothing else until they knew.
Don't bother trying to count how many times this has happened at FBS programs. You'll lose track. In January, three days before Stricklin delivered the "relationships" comments, Cal fired head coach Sonny Dykes without telling the players.
Florida did not respond to a request for explanation.