Jim McElwain, Florida Gators cleared of all fishy business

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Central Michigan coach Jim McElwain, who once coached Florida but apparently never rode naked on a shark, gets a Gatorade shower after the Chippewas defeated Washington State in the Sun Bowl on Dec. 31.
Central Michigan coach Jim McElwain, who once coached Florida but apparently never rode naked on a shark, gets a Gatorade shower after the Chippewas defeated Washington State in the Sun Bowl on Dec. 31.

Putting aside Billy Napier, Florida hasn’t much to brag about lately when it comes to hiring football coaches. But the university got some good news last week.

Jim McElwain did not get naked and cuddle a shark.

Millions of earthlings recall a photo surfaced in 2017 from an unidentified fishing boat. A man was on top of a shark that was big enough to play defensive tackle for Georgia. The only thing the man was wearing was a grin.

He looked a lot like McElwain. That launched a million jokes and a lingering cloud of suspicion over McElwain, who steadfastly denied he’d ever gotten naked with any fish.

That’s what all SEC football coaches say, right?

After almost five years, the mystery has been solved and McElwain has been vindicated. In a “60 Minutes”-type expose, Barstool Sports reported last week that Shark Man was a retired New York City police officer named, oddly enough, Jim McSwiggan.

Jim McElwain? Jim McSwiggan?

They probably all look the same to a panic-stricken shark.

McSwiggan explained that he and some pals were deep-sea fishing and enjoying a few beverages. After catching the star of “Jaws IV,” turning the scene into a Playboy centerfold just seemed like the thing to do.

“I can see how some people would think it was bizarre,” he said.

Barstool flew McSwiggan to Central Michigan U., which hired McElwain despite the fish harassment rumors and his inability to recruit players who can tackle. The Jims hit it off so well, they might even go fishing together someday.

If so, I think I speak for marine life everywhere when I ask them to please refrain from doing anything bizarre. ...

Stud of the Week: Florida’s gymnastics team. In the first collegiate dual meet televised on network TV on Sunday, the Gators edged Alabama 197.00 to 196.925. The O’Connell Center erupted when Nya Reed and Trinity Thomas each posted perfect 10.0 on the floor exercise to pull out the victory.

Dud of the Week: Alabama. Besides gymnastics, the men’s basketball team went 0-2. The women’s basketball team went 0-2. The rowing team hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic. And the football team reportedly lost a game to Georgia.

On the plus side, Nick Saban was not photographed spooning a shark….

I apologize if this week’s notes column seems a bit dour. Besides Jim McElwain being found not guilty in the shark attack, I can no longer make fun of Georgia going 4,100 years without winning a national championship. Thank goodness we’ll always have Vanderbilt. ...

Speaking of which, an update on last week’s report that Vandy has banned students (but not the general public) from basketball games in an effort to slow the COVID spread.

With the home-court advantage largely silenced, the Commodores lost to Kentucky. In response, Vanderbilt announced students will be allowed to watch Tuesday night’s game against arch-rival Tennessee as long as they have been triple-vaccinated and put an N-95 mask over their TVs. ...

In related news, China announced Tuesday the general public will be banned from next month’s Beijing Winter Olympics. The only exception will be Communist Party leaders and Nashville residents who’ve never attended Vanderbilt. ...

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Tom Brady has 13 career tackles. A review of game film showed that’s four more tackles than the entire Florida team had against Samford last season. ...

Parental Warning - The following note contains sexually explicit material not involving a shark:

After Buffalo QB Josh Allen said his feet went numb playing in cold weather, ex-NFL linebacker/ESPN analyst Bart Scott recommended Viagra and said many of his cohorts took it to increase circulation.

A few days later, Allen threw five TDs as the Bills crushed New England 47-17 in near-zero weather. After the Patriots finally scored, a Buffalo fan threw a dildo into the end zone.

There are so many cheap jokes available here, I don’t know where to begin. ...

In way-too-early preseason football polling, Alabama is ranked No. 1 by ESPN, CBS, Sports Illustrated, The Athletic and Sporting News. Apparently unaware of last week’s Barstool report, Field & Stream rated Central Michigan the team most likely to have its coach eaten by a shark. ...

Update: In his season-ending press conference, Bill Belichick said if he’d known about the Viagra-football connection, Deflategate never would have happened….

Major League Soccer team Real Salt Lake signed 14-year-old Axel Kei last week, making him the youngest signing in league history. For perspective, if historical trends hold, Kei will be barely old enough to qualify for Social Security the next time Georgia wins a national championship. ...

Update: After seeing the Barstool Sports report, Urban Meyer is now claiming Jim McSwiggan was the man videotaped getting a lap dance from a shark three months ago at Meyer’s restaurant and bar in Columbus, Ohio. ...

That’s all the space we have for this week’s Whitley’s Believe It or Not. Here’s hoping your week is a perfect 10.0. And if you need to improve circulation in your feet, we suggest you just warm them by a nice fire.

— David Whitley is The Gainesville Sun's sports columnist. Contact him at dwhitley@gannett.com. And follow him on Twitter: @DavidEWhitley

This article originally appeared on The Gainesville Sun: Ex-Florida coach JIm McElwain's name cleared in bizarre shark attack