The process of transforming Colorado State’s Jim McElwain from a top candidate to the next head football coach of the Florida Gators was long and involved, likely longer and more involved than originally expected with plenty of twists and turns occurring throughout. OnlyGators.com is here to break a lot of it down.
Colorado State will tell you, which it did in what is likely the first-ever press release ever sent about a buyout, that while it ultimately compromised with Florida, the program still received 93.3 percent of the $7.5 million buyout attached to McElwain’s contract. And that will, years from now, be true. It is also true that the $7 million that will come the way of the Rams will eclipse the $4.3 million Texas paid Louisville to snag Charlie Strong.
What Colorado State chooses not to mention in its braggadocios press release – titled “Colorado State University receives largest-ever buyout as Jim McElwain goes to University of Florida” – is that it did indeed compromise, a lot more than the school wanted to initially.
In the end, the Gators actually worked out a pretty sweet deal (for a $7 million buyout), especially considering the original $7.5 million buyout was due as a lump sum 30 days after the contract was ended. Let’s take a look at how Florida and athletic director Jeremy Foley turned a lump-sum $7.5 million buyout into $4 million paid out over six years.
1. The Gators will pay the Rams $3 million in cash but will do so over a six-year period with equal installments of $500,000 paid every season. This works out for Florida as it helps defer the cost of McElwain, and it benefits Colorado State because the program will get an infusion of cash every year.
2. Whether at the behest of UF or his agent – or of his own doing – McElwain himself will be paying another $2 million in cash as part of the buyout, also payable over an extended period. While it may seem a lot to ask for him to pay $333,333 out of his salary per year, he received a $2 million raise from the Gators, so his new salary is just a bit less than it would have otherwise been, and incentives in Florida’s deal will undoubtedly allow him to recoup that cash if he has success. McElwain’s willingness to part with this cash also shows an incredible dedication to UF and this job. He is invested – literally.
3. UF and CSU will play a non-conference game at some point between 2017-20 with the Gators paying the Rams $2 million to play in Gainesville, Florida. Currently, Florida pays approximately $500,000-$1 million to face non-Power 5 opponents in Gainesville, so that price may seem a bit steep. However, as pointed out by 247Sports.com’s Thomas Goldkamp, “Alabama [is] paying Colorado State $1.5 million for [a] game in Tuscaloosa in 2017. By [the] time UF hosts CSU in ’17-20, $2 million may be market rate.” Indeed. The funds the Gators are receiving from the SEC Network are also likely to increase substantially over the next six years, so Florida will be able to mitigate that extra cost. But even if the market rate for such games remains the same, UF would need to fill that spot in its schedule one way or another, meaning it is only really paying about $1 million extra to specifically pay CSU, $500,000 if you consider the rate UA got in 2017.
So yes, by 2020, Colorado State will see $7 million of the $7.5 million buyout. But it will not get it right away, and Florida found multiple ways to significantly reduce its outlay. When you break it down like this, the Rams are still receiving the largest-ever buyout, but the Gators are not paying the largest-ever buyout.
Specific details about McElwain’s contract will not be released for months, but Florida did announce that his “total compensation package” will average out to “$3.5 million annually over six years.”
When OnlyGators.com inquired as to whether the $500,000 annual buyout payment to Colorado State – or an additional $333,333 to cover McElwain’s buyout payment – is included in that package, we were told that is currently unknown at this time.
The six-year length of McElwain’s contract is somewhat interesting, however, as it is a year shorter than the initial deal signed by Urban Meyer (seven years) and one season longer than the contract inked by Will Muschamp (five years), who was extended after both his first and second season with the program.
The Gators obviously hoped to lock-up McElwain on Tuesday, Wednesday at the latest, so they could have him on campus by mid-week and hold a press conference ahead of the weekend. That did not happen and now Florida is logistically being forced to hold an introductory press conference on Saturday during ESPN’s College GameDay and just hours ahead of the numerous conference championship games that will be held that day.
That is far from ideal from a public relations and marketing standpoint, as any major press conference held by the Gators is national news. The Monday afternoon presser announcing Muschamp’s departure was aired live in full on both ESPN and the SEC Network. With College GameDay airing live when the press conference begins at 11 a.m., Florida will not get that same national attention or headlines.
It has already been announced that the press conference will stream live online – embedded here at OnlyGators.com for your viewing pleasure – and it should also get picked up by the SEC Network and potentially ESPN2, ESPNNEWS and/or ESPNU.
Additionally, The Gainesville Sun‘s Pat Dooley noted that McElwain will actually fly into Gainesville on Friday to meet with the Gators’ current coaching staff ahead of his press conference.
THE BOWL GAMES
McElwain will not be coaching Colorado State in its bowl game and will immediately take over as Florida’s head coach. It is not currently known how he plans to handle the Gators’ bowl game, though chances are he uses the time to observe practice, get to know the players and hit the recruiting trail hard.
Defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin will remain the interim coach for the Gators’ bowl game, which will officially be announced on Sunday.
Hundreds of tweets, comments and e-mails came pouring through after McElwain’s hire, so here are some short answers to some of the most popular questions that OnlyGators.com received on Thursday.
Do you think McElwain is the right hire?
Florida certainly does, and that is what is most important. McElwain seems to check all of Foley’s boxes and the public sentiments of players and coaches he has been around has been nothing but positive. He appears to be a good fit for the Gators overall.
Is there any update on coordinators or coaches staying on?
A report that came out over the last few days noted that Florida emphasized to McElwain that it would be ideal for a number of assistants – specifically Durkin and defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson – to remain on staff. As with any new hire, coaches are going to want to bring in their own guys; however, there is a history of talented, accomplished and dedicated assistants staying with the Gators from one staff to the next. Durkin and running backs coach Brian White are both still on the staff and holdovers from Urban Meyer. Florida also has some extremely talented assistants on the staff already including Robinson, offensive line coach Mike Summers and assistant head coach/defensive line coach Brad Lawing.
OnlyGators.com is hearing that the report from earlier in the week is factual and that McElwain has agreed that keeping some assistants on staff is best for business. Which coaches those will be, however, remains to be seen. There may also be a scenario where the Gators’ defensive staff remains intact and some offensive coaches stick around with McElwain only hiring a couple key positions. Obviously fans are hopeful that wide receivers coach Chris Leak sticks around (perhaps at a different position); while that may or may not happen, it is doubtful that Leak would simply be cast aside and not put into some sort of role with the program.
MUST-WATCH VIDEO SERIES
Colorado State produced an eight-part preseason series on YouTube previewing the Rams’ 2014 season. Throughout the videos, there are some great behind-the-scenes moments involving McElwain that are definitely worth a watch for Florida fans. Check out those moments below and fast forward the videos as applicable based on the timing notes above each clip.
Episode 1: 2:10-5:25
Episode 2: 0:00-1:45, 7:55-8:20
Episode 3: 2:10-2:50, 6:05-6:20
Episode 4: 1:20-1:40, 3:15-4:15, 4:50-5:05
Episode 5: 0:45-1:00, 4:15-4:40
Episode 6: 1:25-2:00, 4:30-5:00
Episode 7: 1:10-1:40, 3:40-4:05, 6:50-8:00
Episode 8: 4:25-5:35