The Silver Lining: Time for Florida, CSU to end the posturing and make a deal for Jim McElwain

After receiving an email, I felt it was necessary to clarify the below column in two ways. First, I am not insinuating that a verbal agreement negates the terms of a signed contract. Rather, I am stating that it makes good business sense to negotiate in good faith regardless of the signed contract. Secondly, though fewer words were written about one of the two sides in this fiasco, it is important to understand that I hold each side at fault for the way things transpired on Wednesday.

Jim McElwain and the $7.5 million buyout

Wednesday was a day of posturing in Florida’s pursuit of Colorado State head coach Jim McElwain. And most of it, or at least a good portion, was because of how Tuesday’s events unfolded for both parties.

According to reports by The Gainesville Sun and ESPN, Gators athletic director Jeremy Foley only decided to fly to Fort Collins, Colorado, on Tuesday after CSU officials told UF that McElwain’s buyout was indeed negotiable.

Foley, who is already spending $6.3 million to buy out Will Muschamp and may have to pay up to $8 million total to pay off assistants that McElwain decides not to retain (if he’s hired), saw McElwain’s $7.5 million buyout as a roadblock but one that he was willing to navigate through in order to secure his target.

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Florida en route to Colorado State, Jim McElwain is Gators’ top choice to replace Will Muschamp

The Florida Gators have decided that Colorado State Rams head coach Jim McElwain, the 2014 Mountain West Coach of the Year, is its best option to replace Will Muschamp, according to ESPN.com‘s Brett McMurphy, who reports that athletic director Jeremy Foley will meet with McElwain on Tuesday afternoon.

OnlyGators.com first reported Tuesday earlier afternoon that the Gators were on a private jet en route to Fort Collins, Colorado. It was later confirmed by the Orlando Sentinel‘s Edgar Thompson that Foley is indeed on the plane to meet McElwain.

McElwain, who spent three years under Nick Saban at Alabama (2008-11) and directed the Crimson Tide’s offense to back-to-back national titles, has quickly built up a Rams program that was at the bottom of the Mountain West when he took over.

After posting a 4-8 record in his first season at the helm of Colorado State, McElwain pushed the Rams to an 8-6 record in 2013 and a 10-2 regular-season record in 2014.

McElwain has a $7.5 million buyout in his deal with Colorado State, though as OnlyGators.com first reported on Nov. 17 and reiterated on Nov. 30, the entire buyout is negotiable and can either be reduced or eliminated as the school sees fit.

He is considered one of the best offensive minds in college football with Colorado State currently ranked 24th nationally in scoring offense (35.9 points per game), 13th in total offense (497.8 yards per game) and seventh in passing offense (326.3 yards per game). The Rams are also ranked 34th in scoring defense (23.4 points per game).

A native of Montana with numerous ties out west, McElwain played quarterback for Eastern Washington and spent the first eight years of his coaching career on EWU’s staff as a quarterback/wide receiver coach. He then served as offensive coordinator at Montana State (1995-99), wide receivers coach at Louisville (2000-02) and assistant head coach at Michigan State (2003-05). In 2006, McElwain spent a year as quarterback coach for the Oakland Raiders, but he returned to college the following season as offensive coordinator at Fresno State.

OnlyGators.com Coaching Search Ticker

Photo Credit: David Zalubowski/Associated Press

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The Silver Lining for Thursday, November 20: Gators coaching search candidates, mailbag

Florida Gators coaching search

Ah, a coaching search. So much fun. Such little stress. Not taxing whatsoever on my time, energy or sleep patterns, which are already way too out-of-whack. The simple fact is that this will likely be a long and tedious search and no one will experience that as much first-hand as athletic director Jeremy Foley, who not only has to go through the entire process but is also tasked with making the all-important decision.

As this process unfolds, you are going to see such a wide variety of lists and reports posted by different media outlets that your head may spin. My hope with the candidate list that OnlyGators.com posted on Sunday was that you would understand it to be a pros-and-cons breakdown of some of the most talked-about names for the job that also provided you with a comprehensive list of names that could fit what the Gators are looking for in their next coach.

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Snell’s Slant: Upset yet excited for Florida’s future

By Shannon Snell – OnlyGators.com Featured Columnist

So after four long years, the Will Muschamp experiment has reached a conclusion. Most of us saw this coming, some thought/hoped it would be sooner, others believed it could be avoided but felt deep down that it would eventually happen. No matter, at the end of the 2014 season, Muschamp will no longer be the head coach of the Florida Gators.

But this is not about beating Muschamp while he is down; that is unnecessary as he came to the Gators, his hometown team, to do his best. At the end of the day, Muschamp wanted to win and create excitement for Gator Nation; he was just never able to put all the pieces together, especially on the offensive side of the ball. What is truly unfortunate about this situation is that Muschamp, as a man, is well-respected and well-liked by most that encounter him. Do not get it twisted: the Florida players love him, and his assistant coaches admired his work ethic even if they did not always agree with his decisions. But those things can only matter so much when you are making $3 million per season and not winning games, especially important ones – at home – against SEC opponents.

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Florida Gators AD Jeremy Foley: ‘We’re not getting into an arms race’ with our facilities

While in-state rivals and Southeastern Conference foes have been making substantial, multi-million dollar upgrades to their football facilities – including adding exorbitant indoor practice facilities – over recent years, the Florida Gators have stood firm that their amenities are above or on par with any team in the nation.

Athletic director Jeremy Foley took that stance again on Monday while addressing whether he agrees with some external murmuring that Florida’s facilities are no longer up to the program’s lofty standards.

“I wear orange and blue goggles a lot, and I’m certainly willing to have wide-open eyes, but I don’t agree with the assessment that our facilities have fallen behind,” explained Foley. “We judge our facilities based on [whether] they help our programs be successful. Do they make an impact on their ability to be successful? Whether that’s a weight room for football or a gymnastics practice studio, whatever have you.”

It’s not that the Gators have been lacking in making upgrades to their stadiums, locker rooms, weight rooms or multiple sport offices. Rather, Florida has been ahead of the curve in boosting its stadiums and support structures, especially for the football program.

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Florida Gators AD Jeremy Foley outlines his plan in hiring the program’s next head coach

Florida Gators athletic director Jeremy Foley concluded his press conference on Monday by addressing how and when the program will move forward in hiring a replacement for head coach Will Muschamp. He also outlined the qualities an ideal candidate would possess, with a renewed focus on offensive success of paramount importance in the search.

“The search will begin immediately, this afternoon,” Foley began.

“There is no fixed timetable but we’ll proceed as quickly as we can. There’s a lot of work to do, a lot of research to do. We understand how important this hire is for this university. We also understand the pride of the Gator Nation. We understand the pride they have in this football program.

“Because we have fallen short the last several years, we totally understand the disappointment and their frustration. Their passion can cut both ways, and it’s their passion that makes this place special. … It’s an amazing place, so we absolutely want to make this right for them, for this football program and for this university.”

Foley noted that he is looking for a “high-integrity, high-character” individual like Muschamp. “Our mission statement around here says, ‘Championship experience with integrity.’ That is paramount to us as we move forward.”

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Muschamp discusses Florida dismissal with class as Foley, Machen sing his praises

If you did not know entering Monday’s three-headed press conference with Florida Gators president Bernie Machen, athletic director Jeremy Foley and head football coach Will Muschamp that the purpose of the event was to discuss the dismissal of the third man on that list, you might have thought it was held to explain why Muschamp was receiving a raise and contract extension.

Over approximately 45 minutes inside the Florida football facility, Machen and Foley sung Muschamp’s praises. When Muschamp got to the podium, he shared similar sentiments about his employers and the program he was leaving behind.

“From my perspective as president, I have treasured – literally treasured – the last four years in working with Will. He was asked to come here and build a program, a program built on character and good academic values, and he was asked to develop young men that would be a credit to the Gator Nation. He has done that,” said Machen.

“Will and Carol and their family … are beloved by the people of this community, and we feel like they are ours. Never have I worked with a coach in any sport over three different universities that has been more supportive of the university mission and what we’re trying to accomplish. In the end, can you say that someone who has to leave has made a positive contribution? And the answer for that is definitely yes for Will Muschamp. In fact, I would love for my son or my grandson to have the opportunity to be coached by Will Muschamp.”

Foley admitted it was hard to follow Machen’s comments because it is how everyone within the Gators program feels about Muschamp.

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Who’s next? Here are 15+ candidates to replace ousted Florida coach Will Muschamp

Updated on Monday at 11:13 a.m.

For the third time in his tenure at the helm of the Florida Gators‘ University Athletic Association, athletic director Jeremy Foley will be tasked with hiring a new head football coach, this after dismissing Will Muschamp (27-20, 17-15 SEC) on Sunday.

A Gators program that has reached lows not previously seen since the late 1970s is in need of a major boost, and Foley will be searching for a coach to get Florida back to its position of dominance in the state, Southeastern Conference and nation.

What characteristics will Foley likely be looking for as he makes this hire? Head coaching experience, for one; UF’s most successful football hires have held the position before, albeit at less-prestigious schools. Foley will also want a “name” coach, one that excites boosters, fans and the recruiting base as the Gators look to make up major ground following consecutive seasons of mediocrity. Lastly, Foley may desire an offensive-minded coach, though one that is balanced and successful will certainly do.

Here are 15+ coaches who could be leading the Florida football program in 2015.

Gary Patterson
Head coach, TCU

Hire him: Patterson, 54, has spent the last 17 years leading the Horned Frogs, serving as defensive coordinator from 1998-2000 and head coach from 2001-present. He has been at the helm of the program as it has progressed into its fourth conference this century but has found a way consistently recruit well and dominate his competition despite being the third- or fourth-most distinguished school in his state. Patterson’s streaks of success have been significant. He went 21-4 from 2002-03 in Conference USA, 22-3 from 2005-06 in the Mountain West and 47-5 during his final four seasons in the MWC (2008-2011), leading TCU to back-to-back BCS bowls (2009-10). After spending two years getting adjusted to the Big 12, Patterson’s Horned Frogs are presently 9-1 and one of the top four teams in the College Football Playoff. He has proven coaching talent and ability to lead a program but has yet to have the opportunity to do so at a major institution.

Hold up: A Kansas State alumnus, many believe Patterson would like to return to his alma mater once Bill Snyder, 75, decides to retire. Past that, Patterson is very much a defensive-minded coach, though he has understood the importance of offense and TCU’s attack is currently ranked fifth nationally, scoring 45.9 points per game in 2014.

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