McElwain... deal or no deal?

So will Florida have a new head football coach on Thursday or will the dog and pony show to Fort Collins, Colorado be all for naught as we approach another valuable weekend in terms of college football coaching searches? This is the looming question for the Gator Nation early Thursday morning.

We all know by now that the big hold up in landing Colorado State University (CSU) head coach Jim McElwain, is a preposterous buyout in his contract that calls for McElwain to owe CSU $7.5 million if he were decide to move onto another place in the first five years of his contract.

His current contract is a guaranteed 10-year $1.5 million per year deal that lands McElwain about 70th in the country in annual salary. The fact that his agent would bargain that amount of a buyout is mindboggling to this writer, five times his annual salary. It basically limits any chance of getting to a bigger school to one of the top 5-7 programs in the country until that buyout clause is negated five years down the road… and for a salary ranked 70th in the country nonetheless.

Now it is an issue for the three parties involved. McElwain wants to be the Florida coach, Florida wants McElwain, and CSU wants their 7.5 million and would be fine keeping McElwain. The problem for the Gators is the gross amount of the buyout, even when amortized over five years of his likely first contract, that 1.5 million a year added to at least 3 million in salary brings the cost of hiring McElwain to $4.5 million.

There are only six college coaches in America making $4.5 million, it just doesn’t make sense.

I tend to think that since this is going into Thursday that it won’t work out, and by late day on Thursday if there isn’t some kind of compromise, I fully expect Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley to move on. But, the posture, actions, and verbiage from the folks in charge certainly say that they hope for some kind of deal to be struck.

I do think it was a huge mistake to leak the travel plans to the media on the trip to Colorado and turn this into a media circus, much like we went through in 2002 when Foley travelled from Norman, Oklahoma, to Denver Colorado, and finally landing in New Orleans, Louisiana as he entertained responses from Bob Stoops, Mike Shanahan, and Ron Zook. It was a Gator Nation full of web watchers as they tracked the University Athletic Association planes to each destination and then back to Gainesville to announce Zook as the coach.

Masking the plane for the trip and meeting at a neutral site (let’s say Memphis) could have allowed Foley and company to figure out if a deal could be made and most likely get away with no one knowing what was being done. The stalemate may have led to Foley to keep trying, or he may very well have just moved on. There is no doubt he thought he was going to get ‘his man’ on this trip, but so far that hasn’t happened. This became a public spectacle and now more egos are involved than maybe need to be involved.

So how does this end?

Like I said, if it goes too late in the day on Thursday, it appears that the Gators will have to move on. Foley is not a man to wait on something like this. A recruiting class with two months remaining to recruit and hiring a full staff are in the balance here and those are huge factors for the success of the new hire in year one of his tenure.

If they do figure out an option, Florida seems to be making a pretty good hire. McElwain has coached at the highest level, if only as a coordinator, but he has had the ultimate success in that role and he has led a two-win team the year before he arrived at Colorado State to a 10-win team in year three of his tenure. His offenses are multiple and should be a real positive having finished ranked 13th in the nation in 2014 in total offense, 7th in passing offense, and having a thousand yard rusher and receiver in the fold.

Contrary to a couple of national sports writers not accepting the hire as a real positive, I would be more inclined to argue that this might not be a $4.5 million hire, and then it very well may be.

By late afternoon Thursday we should know where things pretty much stand and whether this is a deal, or no deal.

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