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Reports: Central Michigan hires former Florida coach Jim McElwain as new football coach

McElwain’s tenure in Gainsville ended in less-than-ideal circumstances, but he gets a chance to start again in Mt. Pleasant.

Texas A&M v Florida Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Current Michigan wide receivers coach Jim McElwain will be hired as Central Michigan’s new head football coach, per Evan Petzold of Central Michigan Life.

Stadium’s Brett McMurphy reports McElwain will be introduced to the public at a press conference Monday morning.

McElwain will replace the outgoing John Bonamego, who went 26-29 in four seasons as head coach, and will find himself walking into a fascinating situation, as CMU is coming off a program-worst 1-11 record. McElwain hold a career record of 44-28 in five full seasons and one half-season.

A former quarterback at Eastern Washington University (1980-1983), McElwain, a Missoula, Montana native, is known for his offensive prowess, a knowledge which will surely come in handy in Mt. Pleasant for an offense which finished a paltry 128th of 129 eligible programs in total offense in 2018.

McElwain’s coaching pedigree is unquestioned. After an impressive run as offensive coordinator under Nick Saban at Alabama which included three Southeastern Conference championship appearances (2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012) and three national titles (2009, 2010 and 2012), McElwain was hired as head coach at Colorado State.

After a rough first season, in which the Rams finished 4-8, McElwain led CSU to an 18-8 record over the next two seasons. Led by quarterback Garret Grayson and wide receiver Rashard Higgins, the 2014 Rams offense was one of the most dymanic in the country, finishing 13th in yards per game (498). That season saw the Rams rank as high as 21st in the AP Poll and a favorite to earn a Group of Five bid for the New Year’s Six bowl before losing in the final week of the season.

McElwain was named Mountain West Conference coach of the year for his efforts in 2014 and eventually hired to take over at Florida, a team he faced (and beat) many times as Alabama’s OC.

McElwain engineered a big turnaround for a Florida football program that was swimming in muddy waters, going 10-4 in his first season, including an appearance in the SEC Championship Game and a 25th ranking in the final AP and Coaches Poll.

2016 saw the Gators once again compete for the SEC title after a 9-3 regular season record, finishing with a win in the Outback Bowl and a 13th ranking in the final AP Poll.

2017, however, saw decidedly less cheery headlines for McElwain, as nine of his players were accused of credit card fraud just days before the season opener and the offense struggled to generate yards and points, going 3-3 with two one-possession losses to conference foes. To make matters worse, McElwain alleged death threats had been made to him and his family in a press conference prior to Florida’s rivalry game against Georgia, a claim which was repudiated by the school.

Florida and McElwain “mutually agreed to part ways” after a 42-7 loss to #3 Georgia in Jacksonville, Florida. Florida had reportedly been looking to fire McElwain with cause due to his refusal to elaborate on the death threats he mentioned at the press conference.

There was also plenty of ridicule of McElwain surrounding a viral internet image of a naked doppelganger riding a shark who many people claimed, jokingly or otherwise, was McElwain, a claim he had to vehemently deny multiple times.

McElwain was picked up by Jim Harbaugh to be Michigan’s WR coach in the 2018 offseason, and he has been credited with the re-emergence of the Wolverine passing game, as our sister blog Maize N’ Brew points out.

As Michigan’s WR coach, McElwain made approximately $330,000 for base salary in 2018, per Central Michigan Life. Bonamego made approximately $655,000 before incentives in 2018, per USA Today’s FBS coaches database.

Financials for McElwain’s contract with Central are unknown at this time.