It’s almost ironic. Almost.
Jim McElwain was the offensive coordinator at Alabama when the Crimson Tide defeated Florida in the 2009 SEC championship game. McElwain’s unit put up 490 yards on a Florida team that was undefeated and primed for a national championship run. McElwain made Tim Tebow cry.
Now, nearly six years later, McElwain returns to Florida set on reestablishing the program he helped dismantle. The 53-year-old coach was announced as the new head coach of the Gators in December 2014 and the expectations are already high in The Swamp. After all, this is a program that is fairly well acquainted with what McElwain can do with an offense.
Here’s what you need to know about the Montana native with a penchant for the rules:
1. McElwain Was Announced as Head Coach at Florida in December 2014
After a few holdups surrounding his buyout from Colorado State, McElwain officially agreed to terms to become the next head coach of the Florida Gators in December 2014.
According to ESPN, McElwain signed a six-year year contract and will be paid an average of $3.5 million per season. In order to settle the issues over McElwain’s $7.5 million buyout from CSU, Florida agreed to pay $3 million over six years to the coach’s former program and also agreed to a future game in Gainesville between 2017 and 2020. That’s not all. McElwain also agreed to pay $2 million to Colorado State himself. The $5 million paid from Florida to CSU was the largest school-to-school buyout ever. The previous record was the $4.375 million that Texas paid Louisville for Charlie Strong.
McElwain recently introduced himself to the student population at Florida with a note he published to Twitter, hoping to spark a rise in student attendance at the Swamp:
2. He Previously Coached at Colorado State & Alabama
On December 13, 2011, McElwain officially accepted the head coaching position at Colorado State and his tenure was immediately dubbed “A Bold New Era” by the school’s athletic department.
McElwain finished his first season with a 4-8 record, winning three of his final five games. Year two was highlighted by an 8-6 record a miraculous comeback victory in the New Mexico Bowl.
His third season was by far the most successful with nine straight victories and a No. 21 national national ranking. Despite just missing out on a bowl berth, after falling to Air Force in the regular season finale, the Rams offense was among the top in the nation, averaging 498 yards per game. McElwain was named the Mountain West Conference coach of the year after his team’s 2014 performance.
McElwain had previously served as the offensive coordinator at the University of Alabama and Fresno State after one season as the quarterback coach of the Oakland Raiders.
3. McElwain Played Quarterback at Eastern Washington in the 1980’s
McElwain grew up in Missoula, Montana and played quarterback at Sentinel High School where he was a standout quarterback.
He played college ball at Eastern Washington from 1980 to 1983, earning a degree in education before joining the team as a graduate assistant in 1985. He was promoted in 1987 and worked as quarterbacks and receivers coach until 1994.
McElwain’s roommate during undergrad was former ESPN radio personality Colin Cowherd.
4. He’s Developed a No-Nonsense Approach at Florida
It hasn’t taken long for McElwain to lay down the law at Florida. And his brand-new rules are making headlines. The first-year Gators coach has told players that they will be benched if they are whistled for penalties and he won’t think twice against sending them tot he sidelines.
That rule also includes scrimmages. A defensive lineman was reportedly kicked out of a team scrimmage during practice because of an unsportsmanlike penalty. McElwain explained the mindset:
We don’t put up with it. There’s no excuse. There’s absolutely zero. To me, it’s one of the most selfish acts somebody can do because it’s them and it’s usually because you’re not going as hard as the other guy so now you’re going to be Mr. Tough Guy or whatever. There’s no place on a football team for a selfish player.
The Gators are coming off a handful of seasons plagued by penalty problems, averaging the second highest penalty yards per game in the SEC last season. Florida had led the SEC in that category from 2011 to 2013.
5. He & His Wife Karen Made Headlines in January For Helping a Former CSU Football Player
Although he had just left the program, McElwain couldn’t cut ties with Colorado State too quickly. According to a report by The Colorodoan, the reigning Mountain West coach of the year and his wife Karen donated $5,000 to a former CSU football player who did not have the resources to fly home for his late wife’s funeral.
The donation, which was provided by the McElwain-owned MacFam LLC, was sent to former defensive lineman Eli Edwards. He and his daughter planned to use the gift, as well as $15,000 received from other donors, to pay for expenses to fly to New Zealand where his wife had been being treated for lupus.
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