clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Florida's Jim McElwain becomes first coach to win SEC East in first year

The Gators' coach will be going where no SEC East coach has gone before in a rookie season with a program: Atlanta.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Florida's 9-7 victory over Vanderbilt on Saturday gave the Gators their first SEC East title since 2009, and a record 11th SEC division title. Winning the East is kind of old hat for the Gators at this point: Florida's collected just under half of the 24 SEC East titles awarded to date.

But no one else had ever previously done what Jim McElwain just did with these Gators in 2015: Win the SEC East in his first year at the victorious school.

McElwain joins LSU's Les Miles (2005) and Auburn's Gus Malzahn (2013) in the elite fraternity of SEC coaches who have piloted their teams to Atlanta in their first years in the big chair at those schools. But Miles and Malzahn obviously both won the SEC West in those first seasons as SEC head coaches.

McElwain is the first SEC East coach to lead his team to a division title in his first year.

Previously, Georgia's Mark Richt (2002) and Florida's Urban Meyer (2006) had overseen the quickest rises to the top of the SEC East, with both coaches' teams winning the division in their second years in those positions.

And while Missouri's Gary Pinkel won the SEC East on his second try in 2013, he was new to the SEC thanks to Missouri's arrival in the conference, not to Columbia. Pinkel has been at Missouri since 2001, as long as Richt has been at Georgia.

McElwain also matches Steve Spurrier as the only other coach to win the SEC East on his first attempt. Spurrier's Gators won the first five SEC East titles from 1992 to 1996, and posted the best conference records of any current SEC East teams in 1990 and 1991, the final pre-divisional years of SEC.

Already, McElwain has done something Meyer didn't, in reaching the SEC Championship Game on his first try. And if his Gators win the SEC title in December, they will do something Spurrier's didn't: Florida could win the SEC in the first year of a coach's tenure for the first time in program history, and match 2013 Auburn as the only other team to win the SEC in a coach's first year.