GAINESVILLE — Frustration over uncharacteristically down seasons at Florida and Florida State has started to spill over from message boards and start crossing real-world lines.
Gators coach Jim McElwain said there have been death threats directed toward his program after UF’s 3-3 start.
"The hard part is obviously when the threats against your own players, death threats to your families, the ill will that’s brought upon out there," McElwain said Monday. "And yet I think it’s really one of those deals that really is a pretty good testament to what’s going on out there nationally. A lot of angry people. In this business, we’re the ones they take the shots at, and that’s the way it is."
McElwain wouldn’t elaborate on the details of the threats, including who was targeted and whether any were against him. He said UF didn’t contact law enforcement over them, and a spokesperson for the local FBI office did not return a request for comment.
What’s even more distressing: McElwain said he isn’t shocked by the threats leveled midway through the season at a team that has won back-to-back SEC East titles.
"You’re in the business, that’s all part of it," McElwain said. "When it’s directed toward your players, when it’s directed to families, wives, that kind of thing … and yet at the same time they know what they signed up for as well. That’s part of the business."
The Gators confirmed that administrators met with McElwain to talk about the threats Monday.
"The University Athletic Association takes the safety of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and families very seriously," spokesman Steve McClain said. "Our administration met with Coach McElwain this afternoon and he offered no additional details."
Although FSU coach Jimbo Fisher didn’t mention any death threats Monday, he was heckled by a fan after Saturday’s 31-28 home loss to Louisville dropped FSU to 2-4 for the first time since 2009. A fan yelled at Fisher to get new coaches, and Fisher snapped that the fan should come say that to his face.
Two days after the viral encounter, Fisher doesn’t regret it. He said criticism (especially from the media) comes with the coaching profession, but he "would have never thought in a thousand years" he’d hear a comment like that from a Seminoles fan after a home game.
"We’re walking off the field, and I’m walking off the field, and I’m looking at the hurt and watching our kids cry," Fisher said. "And I look at the coaches — how hurt they were. And coaches’ kids are standing there right by the tunnel. They’re sitting there, listening to the guy. …
"To hear one of our fans reaching over saying that about our coaches in front of their own kids and in front of their own players … that doesn’t belong there."
FSU RB Jacques Patrick will have surgery this week after tearing cartilage in his knee Saturday. The 6-foot-3, 231-pound junior is second on the team with 434 rushing yards. FSU won’t have a specific timeline for his return until after surgery, but Patrick will likely miss the rest of the season.
Five-star freshman Cam Akers is set to receive even more carries, and Fisher said sophomore Amir Rasul and St. Petersburg Catholic alumnus Ryan Green could also see more time in the rotation.
"They might be the No. 3 team in the country, but they can’t beat Florida. That’s our mentality going forward, and we’ll come out and be ready to play."
Gators WR Josh Hammond on playing undefeated SEC East favorite Georgia on Saturday. UF has won three in a row in the series.
Contact Matt Baker at [email protected] Follow @MBakerTBTimes.