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Florida bats down report of “working hard” on Jim McElwain’s buyout

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Whether you believe this report or not, it’s out there.

NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Update, 12:11 p.m.: Florida has issued a statement from athletic director Scott Stricklin denying speaking with Jim McElwain or his representatives to work on McElwain’s buyout.

Notable by omission, perhaps? Anything addressing the other substantive bits of Darren Heitner’s tweets.

Original: Rumors have swirled in recent weeks that the Florida Gators and Jim McElwain do not have as harmonious a working relationship as might be possible.

But until Saturday, no one had stuck a neck out to report that the Gators and McElwain were working on a separation — and that’s what we got from Florida alumnus and South Florida-based sports lawyer Darren Heitner on Saturday morning.

McElwain and Florida would not, on the face, seem likely to part: McElwain just agreed to a contract extension earlier in 2017, and USA TODAY research published just this week suggests his buyout is a shade under $13 million. And while all of the steps outlined here are plausible — boosters routinely pool money to help athletic associations with major personnel moves, athletic directors draft statements and prepare for all manner of possibilities, and agents and schools definitely speak about coaches — they also seem somewhat less plausible in the light of the morning of the Florida-Georgia game.

Even if McElwain’s revelations about death threats and the subsequent weirdness of Florida’s statement on them and McElwain’s not-quite-forthright explanation of them brought the rumor kettle to full boil this week, it would certainly seem to benefit no party involved for news of negotiations to broker McElwain’s departure from Florida to break just hours before kickoff of one of Florida’s biggest games of the year — no party other than Heitner, at least, whose conspicuously-timed tweets could well be featured on College GameDay much like plenty of overheated Sunday morning speculation fills an assortment of NFL studio shows.

Heitner is a Florida alumnus who has worked as an agent, though he has transitioned to a different sort of sports law, and he has taught at UF’s law school in recent years, so it wouldn’t be completely absurd for him to have a dead-on source on this. But it would, in fact, be absurd for either McElwain (or Sexton) or Florida to be playing this out through the press — especially right now.

Given how this season has progressed, though, the presence of absurdity may not mean the absence of fact.