New CSU Athletic Director Jack Graham proclaimed Tuesday a “great day for Colorado State” as he officially named Jim McElwain as the new football coach.
McElwain was introduced at a press conference that was as much of a pep rally as it was a news event.
The marching band played McElwain onto the podium inside the Indoor Practice Facility while cheerleaders, alumni, students and the football team watched on.
The energy of his introduction is the exact thing that McElwain will try to bring to the CSU football team.
And after meeting with the current players before being formally introduced, he has them ready to go.
“We wish we had a game this weekend to get going,” quarterback Garrett Grayson said.
McElwain, Graham and CSU President Tony Frank form a triumvirate that will head what the athletics department has termed “a bold new era” as they try and make football a point of pride and notoriety throughout the nation.
The big plans of Graham and Frank, including the goal of building an on-campus football stadium within five years, is what sold McElwain on the job.
“You want to be associated with those with visions and those that care,” said McElwain, who is currently the offensive coordinator at Alabama. “When I hear them (Frank and Graham) talk and when I hear about their vision and the inclusion of my family in that vision, that’s really important to me.”
McElwain will begin forming his program immediately. His recruiting efforts will go from now until Dec. 19 when there is an NCAA mandated dead period in which no recruiting can occur that lasts until Jan. 3.
While he said that areas like California, Texas and Florida will continue to be points of emphasis, his main goal in recruiting will be to win the state.
“We need to make sure that we keep our own at home,” McElwain said. “We are in Colorado, we need to make sure that every student-athlete that’s viable and able to play at this Division-I level, that we go out and make a commitment to them.”
He already has some connections in the state. While serving as an offensive coordinator at Montana State, he worked with former CSU coach Sonny Lubick at recruiting Colorado.
The two coaches looked at tape together, and whatever players Lubick didn’t want at CSU, he pushed toward McElwain.
As for style of play, Alabama’s offense ranks third in the SEC in scoring at 36 points per game and second in total offense with 433 yards per game running a pro-style offense.
But McElwain said he is willing to adapt and change based on roster, and opponents.
“We threw it all over the park before I got to Alabama,” McElwain said. “I tried to throw it all over the park my first spring there, and when there were some of these SEC guys that were rushing us, I learned we better do some other stuff.”
McElwain, 49, was an all-state quarterback at Sentinel High School in Missoula, Mont., and played college football at Eastern Washington. He previously coached at Montana State, Louisville, Michigan State, Fresno State and spent a season as the quarterbacks coach with the Oakland Raiders.
During his coaching stops he has always worked on the offensive side of the ball.
In the past week he had his named mentioned as a candidate at both Fresno State and Memphis, but took his name out of consideration at both schools.
He said that before taking the job, he talked with Lubick and said it was “probably the most important conversation I had.”
McElwain said he will make sure that Lubick is involved in the program.
He was signed to a five-year contract with a base salary of $1.35 million. He can earn another $150,000 dollars in bonus money. All of the bonuses are tied to graduation rates and keeping a clean program without NCAA violations. None of the bonuses are tied to win totals, Graham said.
Graham, Frank and McElwain all expressed the feeling that they have similar goals for the program.
“I know coach McElwain is going to dream big and work hard,” Graham said. “And I’m absolutely convinced that he is going to deliver excellence on behalf of Colorado State University.”
McElwain stressed that this is a long-term commitment for him. He isn’t looking to jump to a bigger program if he finds success.
He will now meet with the current coaching staff and formulate a schedule for recruiting. In addition to the dead period, recruiting efforts are further complicated by the fact that McElwain will return to Alabama practice on Dec. 23 and will coach through the BCS National Championship game on Jan. 9 against LSU.
For the time being, McElwain will work on assembling his coaching staff and jump-start recruiting efforts.
For the players, they are just excited about the direction the program could go under McElwain.
“We know as a team that we have the talent to do that, now we have someone that can instill that confidence, instill that fire, the things we need to get better,” receiver Thomas Coffman said. “He’s definitely the one to do that.”
Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Lytle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.