Jim McElwain is returning to the Southeastern Conference after three seasons as head coach at Colorado State. The 52-year-old McElwain, who as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Alabama from 2008-11 helped the Crimson Tide win two national titles, has been hired to replace Will Muschamp.
Florida Athletics Director Jeremy Foley finalized an agreement with McElwain on Thursday and a press conference to introduce McElwain as the 24th head coach in Florida football history is scheduled for Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
"Coach McElwain was someone we targeted from the beginning of the search,'' Foley said. "The more we worked through the process and did our due diligence, coupled with our meeting and conversations with him and those around him, it was obvious he is the right person to lead the Florida Gator football program."
The University of Florida Athletic Association and Colorado State have agreed to a payment of $3 million over six years. Florida and Colorado State will also play a game in Gainesville between 2017-20 with a $2 million guarantee. Coach McElwain has agreed to a $2 million payment over time to Colorado State.
Coach McElwain's total compensation package will average $3.5 million annually over six years.
McElwain led Colorado State to a 10-2 season in 2014, the Rams' first 10-win season in 12 years. The Rams also made an appearance in the national rankings for the first time since 2003.
McElwain took over a program that had gone 9-27 in the three seasons prior to his arrival and led Colorado State to 22-16 record in three seasons.
McElwain completed his 30th season in coaching on Friday when the Rams concluded the regular season with a 27-24 loss at Air Force, snapping their nine-game win streak. Foley reached out to McElwain over the weekend after Colorado State's season ended to gauge his interest in taking over the Gators.
"He has a proven track record on the offensive side of the ball, has coached in the SEC, won two national championships and has had success as a head coach,'' Foley said. "He has recruited the South and the state of Florida and has spent time coaching at the highest level in the NFL.
"He has an engaging personality and is someone who can connect with a variety of audiences and he operates with a high level of integrity. I welcome him and his family to The Gator Nation and I'm looking forward to working alongside him and his staff as they build a championship program both on and off the field."
Florida fans who follow the SEC closely recall McElwain's prolific offenses at Alabama that teamed with Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban's defensive mastery to unseat the Gators as the SEC's premier program in 2009.
In former UF quarterback Tim Tebow's final season, Alabama knocked off Florida 32-13 in the 2009 SEC Championship Game, as Crimson Tide quarterback Greg McElroy, under the direction of McElwain, won MVP honors by throwing for 239 yards and a touchdown against a UF defense that was ranked No. 1 in the country.
Alabama rolled up 490 yards to snap Florida's school-record 22-game win streak and earn its first SEC title in a decade. A month later, the Crimson Tide defeated Texas to win the program's first national title since 1992.
In McElwain's four seasons at Alabama, the Crimson Tide's offense produced the three most prolific seasons in school history in total yards up to his departure after a victory over LSU to win the 2011 national championship. Alabama posted a 48-6 record with McElwain in charge of the offense.
During McElwain's time at Alabama, he was responsible for recruiting parts of Florida and played a key role in landing former Crimson Tide standout Ha Ha Clinton-Dix out of Dr. Phillips High in Orlando. Clinton-Dix was a first-round pick of the Packers in 2014.
McElwain continued to produce explosive offenses once he got established at Colorado State. The Rams averaged 497.8 yards per game this season, 13th in the country, and 7.21 yards per play, fourth overall. Led by quarterback Garrett Grayson (3,779 yards, 32 TDs, 6 INTs), the Rams averaged 326.3 yards passing per game (seventh in country) and 9.5 yards per pass attempt (second overall).
Grayson wasn't the only star on Colorado State's offense, joined by Orlando native and former Alabama running back Dee Hart, who rushed for 1,291 yards and 16 touchdowns, and receiver Rashard Higgins, who caught 89 passes for 1,640 yards and 17 touchdowns. A sophomore, Higgins is one of three finalists for the Biletnikoff Award, given annually to the nation's top receiver. Alabama's Amari Cooper and West Virginia's Kevin White are the other finalists.
In 2013, the Rams offense featured running back Kapri Bibbs, who rushed for 1741 yards and scored 31 touchdowns, most in the nation that season. Grayson threw for nearly 3700 yards with 23 touchdowns in the same season.
A native of Missoula, Mont., McElwain played quarterback at Eastern Washington from 1980-83 and began his coaching career there in 1985 as a graduate assistant. He spent 10 years at his alma mater, rising to quarterbacks/receivers coach before leaving in 1995 to become offensive coordinator at Montana State.
McElwain later made stops at Louisville and Michigan State before spending the 2006 season as quarterbacks coach of the Oakland Raiders. After one season in the NFL, McElwain returned to the college ranks as offensive coordinator at Fresno State in 2007 before joining Saban's Alabama staff in 2008 - a month after turning down an offer from his alma mater to return as head coach.
"Their improvement on offense, especially in the play of their quarterback, was tremendous,'' Saban said when he hired McElwain from Fresno State. "We talked to a large pool of coaches when we interviewed for that position and Jim was absolutely the best candidate we spoke to."
In his first season at Colorado State, the Rams finished 4-8 in 2012 as McElwain installed his pro-style offense that relied heavily on a balanced and up-tempo approach. They improved to 8-6 a year ago - defeating Washington State in the New Mexico Bowl -- and beat Colorado and Boston College on the way to a 10-2 season in 2014.
McElwain shared his offensive philosophy when he arrived at Alabama this way: "No. 1 is to be physical and make sure the team we're playing knows that they better bring their lunch because we're going to come after you on every play. When we hit the field, we're here on your end for a long day."
McElwain takes over a Florida team that finished 6-5 and is awaiting to hear of its bowl destination as interim head coach D.J. Durkin directs the program.
-courtesy of the SEC
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