For 10 long days and several sleepless nights, new Colorado State University Athletic Director Jack Graham scoured the country in search of securing a head football coach to replace Steve Fairchild, who was fired December 4. At a noon press conference Tuesday, Graham will announce the new coach -- Jim McElwain, who has served as Alabama's offensive coordinator the past four seasons.
McElwain became a hot prospect in recent weeks with both Memphis and Fresno State thinking they had secured him as head coach. Reports surfaced that McElwain wasn't convinced either institution was committed to sustained football success and pulled his name out of both opportunities. The fact that he has accepted CSU's offer may speak volumes of the newfound commitment CSU is making to athletics, as proclaimed by President Dr. Tony Frank and Graham. One unconfirmed report states that CSU will pay McElwain more than $1.5 million per year, with incentives that could take the total higher. McElwain was earning $510,000 per year at Alabama, and was in line for a bowl-game bonus of more than $80,000. Fairchild’s salary at Colorado State was $700,000.
McElwain, 49, has held the reigns of an offense that has featured two Heisman Trophy finalists in as many years, including the 2010 winner, Mark Ingram. The Crimson Tide is also playing for its second consecutive national championship. Alabama’s offense ranks and No. 2 in the SEC in total offense (433 yards per game) in and No. 3 in scoring (36 points per game).
It is unknown if McElwain is expected to coach in the Jan. 9, 2012, BCS National Champion Game in New Orleans or begin his tenure at CSU immediately, although it assumed he will start as soon as possible to put together a staff and get a jump on recruiting. The day that McElwain is announced at CSU is the same day that a series of quiet periods (during which recruits can visit with coaches but only on those coaches' campuses) and dead periods (during which no in-person contact is allowed) begin into January. On a positive note, McElwain will be able to attend the 2012 American Football Coaches Association National Convention January 8-11, in San Antonio, Texas, as CSU's new head coach, using it as an opportunity to build his staff.
Jim McElwain was born in Missoula, MT and played quarterback at Sentinel High School in Missoula where he was chosen as an all-state quarterback. He played quarterback at Eastern Washington from 1980 to 1983, earning a degree in education. His first coaching job was at Eastern Washington as a grad assistant and he next took took an offensive coordinator position at Montana State from 1995 to 1999. His first jump to the FBS level came from 2000-02 at Louisville under John L. Smith, and actually coached against CSU in the 2000 Liberty Bowl. McElwain followed Smith to Michigan State and served as Assistant Head Coach there from 2003-05. He spent a year in the NFL as Quarterbacks Coach for the Oakland Raiders, then spent a year as Offensive Coordinator at Fresno State before joining Nick Saban's staff at Alabama in 2008.
McElwain, who has a wife (Karen), two daughters (Johanna and Elizabeth), and a son (Jerrett). The family is said to be friends with the Lubick family, and they were interested in returning to the western U.S.
The 12 p.m. press conference Tuesday will take place in the Indoor Practice Facility to accommodate a large crowd.