Gators’ McElwain proactive with life skills

For too many people in the college football world it is all about the wins and losses. The multi-billion dollar industry is driven by rabid fans that want to win at all costs. This means breaking the simple rules pf college football that could jeopardize the eligibility of players and even a team playing in the post season. It also means that some turn a blind eye to the immoral, unethical, and unlawful things that some student athletes. Florida’s Jim McElwain goes far in the other direction.

Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey has had his hands full of all kinds of irregularities when it comes to the things stated above.

The University of Tennessee has been battling a federal investigation over several football players involved in sexual assault or misconduct. Mississippi State allowed a signee to join the team this month that was caught on video doing horribly violent things to a female friend. In the Big-12. Baylor fired their coach over the mishandling of a sexual assault matter.

The stuff is prevalent everywhere and the SEC has started to act on it.

Last year the conference enacted a rule that no SEC school can take a transfer that was released from a school for violence issues. The new signee has a different set of circumstances that they have to deal with, nut it is something they will continue to assess and figure out.

“I'm always cautious to people to be careful of judging one's character on ten seconds of video,” Sankey said when asked about the freshman enrolled at Mississippi State. “Our working group spent a lot of time teal dealing with that. A couple of concerns that were consistently identified, which is what can you know? What can you learn if there's something particularly in one's juvenile past, and can you access information in a consistent way.”

The different levels of information from a college athlete is a different matter and one they can better police.

“When someone enrolls in college, they are generally an adult,” Sankey said. “You expect that you'll have access to more consistent information on which to base decisions. And so we as a group said let's go further on the transfer issue. They have been adults on the university campus, and that misbehavior is viewed as rising to a higher level of attention.

“I think we've raised attention certainly to the transfer issue. I do look and observe that individual's act, and it is difficult to sometimes predict the actions of individuals. Part of our basis for the transfer policy is when there are certain behaviors that may indicate a potential for future behavior, certainly around interpersonal violence. That's a stopping point here.”

Sankey is looking at making everything more proactive and less reactive.

“We have talked as a conference about expectations, reality, around how legal expectations play out. And we'll continue to do that. I don't -- I think if you heard the activities the last month remind us that we even need to be more attentive and with the settlement that was announced and some of the commentary about changes at the University of Tennessee, there's a communication opportunity there to help educate on those changes. You saw a program that LSU introduced last week. University of Kentucky, two, three, years ago went through an exhaustive search across campus survey process to understand and educate how they proceed. But I would caution that we not assume that people don't do the right things most, if not all of the time.”

At Florida, McElwain wasted no time and in his first couple of months on the job he was bringing in speakers for his players so that they understand what is right and wrong and what are the possible consequences t those situations that they could put themselves in. In Gainesville, being a Gator is a life experience, both in the present and a building block for the future.

“There is so much more than just wins and losses with our guys,” McElwain said. “It’s about helping them travel through life a little bit, giving them some nuggets that may help them be stronger fathers and good citizens, and a lot of those type of things. We all try to do that.”

Based on the things that happened at Baylor, Tennessee, and other places, McElwain has really pushed this segment of his football program.

“Obviously there was a real opportunity based on historical precedence to go back and review and look at what everybody has done,” the Gator head coach said. “Some of the things that are going through in today’s world is different than when I grew up, so I can’t be the expert. But what I can do is bring the experts in to constantly visit with our guys, to be there with support and to be there to answer questions. It’s something we work hard on.

“It is something that we all needed to look at and not hide from and yet I am big on being proactive and not reactive. It is something since we’ve taken over that we’ve instituted and it’s pretty good.

“I am proud of all our guys and yet what we can do to help, to educate, not to say we’re in their shoes, but to say ‘here’s what you do in certain situations.”


Listening to Florida starting senior linebacker Jarrad Davis, the life experience and knowledge he is gaining from this has had a profound impact on him and likely his teammates.

“Coach Mac and his staff, they do a phenomenal job of creating the ideal player and athlete,” Davis said. “They also do a phenomenal job of creating wonderful men as well. To be honest with you, that is a very difficult thing to do. As I’ve gotten older I kind of see the challenge that comes with that.

There are always guys that will stray, but McElwain is working on deterring the issues instead of picking up the pieces after the issues happen.

“You have a lot of guys that are very egotistical and don’t worry about the outside world and what is going on around them,” Davis said. “It’s really hard to show guys the right direction without them rejecting you. Coach Mac has done a wonderful job with that.

“This whole offseason we’ve had speakers come in and speak to us about the realistic possibilities of what can actually happen if you put yourself in certain situations. It is definitely something we were aware of and even more aware of this offseason.”

Davis has such a fine perspective on what he has the opportunity to accomplish, his words should be plastered everywhere.

“As a student athlete this is the way I look at it… every day I wake up and get out of bed and go to work. I have a special opportunity right here,” he said. “My name is going to be on everything I do, but my mom, my grandpa, my grandma, my dad, my teachers, my coaches… everyone that played a part in getting me to this University… If I were to go out and jeopardize all the work and time they invested in me… that is extremely selfish. I wouldn’t want to waste all of that for a couple of minutes or a couple of seconds of doing something that I shouldn’t be doing.

“It’s very serious and something that is constantly talked about in the offseason because this is when we have all of our free time. We get constant reminders every week about what we should be doing and shouldn’t be doing. Coach Mac’s biggest rule is to do what’s right.”

A breath of fresh air.






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