Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley landed at the airport in Fort Collins on Tuesday afternoon and went to McElwain’s house. The Florida contingent stayed in Fort Collins on Tuesday night before leaving on Wednesday afternoon, still unsure of who would be the program’s next head coach since talks about the buyout complicated the process.
Buyout talks continued when the Florida group returned to Gainesville, but they were cleared up on Thursday afternoon, allowing McElwain to officially accept the Florida job.
Florida released the buyout information late Thursday morning. The University Athletic Association will pay Colorado State $3 million over six years. The Rams will visit The Swamp between 2017-20 for $2 million, and McElwain will pay Colorado State $2 million.
The Gators will hold the introductory press conference on Saturday.
"It's an honor to be a part of the one of most powerful brands in college athletics in the Florida Gators," McElwain said. "I'm humbled, yet very excited about the tremendous opportunity that Dr. Machen and Jeremy Foley have afforded me and my family. I can't tell you how eager I am to get to Gainesville to set a course for who we are going to be and what we will be all about."
In his three years at Colorado State, McElwain compiled a 22-16 record and was named 2014 Mountain West Coach of the Year after leading the Rams to a 10-2 record. The record is hurt by a 4-8 record in his first season during 2012, but the team went 3-9 in the year before he took the job and started the program’s turnaround.
The Rams are 25th in scoring offense (35.9 points), 59th in rushing offense (171.6 points), 7th in passing offense (326.3 yards) and 13th in total offense (497.8 yards) this season. Colorado State quarterback Garrett Grayson is 6th in the country, averaging 314.9 passing yards per game. Rams receiver Rashard Higgins leads the nation with 149.1 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns.
In 2013, McElwain led Colorado State to eight wins -- the most in the school’s previous 12 seasons. It was also the team’s first bowl game since 2008.
Before taking over Colorado State, McElwain served as Nick Saban’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Alabama from 2008-2011, when the program won two national titles. In four years under McElwain, the Alabama offense was always in the top 35 scoring offenses and went 48-6. His offense turned the ball over only 57 times in four years, the lowest amount in the country. He also sent two players to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony: running back and 2009 winner Mark Ingram and running back Trent Richardson in 2011.
McElwain was also the offensive coordinator for the three years Julio Jones spent in Tuscaloosa. As a junior, Jones was 17th in the country with 87.2 yards per game.
During his first season in Tuscaloosa, McElwain helped John Parker Wilson improve his pass efficiency rating from eighth to fifth in the SEC. He was also named a Johnny Unitas Award finalist under McElwain’s wing.
When Alabama won a national title in 2009, McElwain’s offense set a school record with 5,642 yards from scrimmage. The 2011 offense eventually broke that record again in one game fewer than the 2009 season. McElwain even used Ingram out of the wildcat formation during his Heisman season. In the 2009 national title game, Alabama running backs Ingram and Richardson each rushed for over 100 yards and two touchdowns apiece.
In 2010, Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy was fourth nationally in passing efficiency with a rating of 168.9. He completed 70.9 percent of his passes, the second best percentage in SEC history.
In 2011 under McElwain, the Alabama offense averaged 219.8 rushing yards and 213.6 passing yards. AJ McCarron, in his first year as a starting quarterback, ranked second in the SEC in passing efficiency (149.8) and third in the league in total offense with 197.3 yards per game.
He was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Fresno State in 2007. His offense averaged 419.5 yards and 32.9 points, and the group averaged 338.2 yards and 23 points per game the year before McElwain took over. His quarterback in 2007 was Tom Brandstater, who finished 23rd nationally in passing efficiency (140.5). The year before McElwain took over, Brandstater’s passing efficiency was 106.7.
McElwain also has stops as an assistant coach with the Oakland Raiders (2006), Michigan State (2003-05), Louisville (2000-02), Montana State (1995-99) and Eastern Washington (1987-94). He played quarterback at Eastern Washington from 1980-83. In his time at Louisville, McElwain was the receivers coach and tutored Super Bowl XXXIX MVP Deion Branch.
Despite most of his experience coming out west, McElwain has ties to the SEC from his time at Alabama and actually recruited Florida when he was on the Crimson Tide staff.