Jim McElwain
File:Jim McElwain.png
Current position
TitleHead coach
TeamCentral Michigan
Annual salary$1.6 Million
Biographical details
Born (1962-03-01) March 1, 1962 (age 58)
Missoula, Montana
Playing career
Head coaching record
Accomplishments and honors
2 SEC Eastern Division (2015–2016)
MWC Coach of the Year (2014)
SEC Coach of the Year (2015)
2x AFCA Regional Coach of the Year (2014–2015)

James Frank McElwain[1] (born March 1, 1962) is an American football coach who is currently the head coach for Central Michigan University. He previously served as the head coach at Florida from 2015 to 2017, and Colorado State from 2012 to 2014, where he was named the Mountain West Conference Coach of the Year in 2014. He also served as offensive coordinator for the Alabama Crimson Tide from 2008 to 2011.

Early lifeEdit

McElwain was born in Missoula, Montana in 1962. He played quarterback at Sentinel High School in Missoula where he was chosen as an all-state quarterback.[2] He then went on to play quarterback in college at Eastern Washington from 1980 to 1983, and he earned a degree in education.[2]

Coaching careerEdit

Early careerEdit

After graduating from Eastern Washington, McElwain stayed there as a graduate assistant and was eventually given the job of quarterbacks and receivers coach. During his stint as a coach there from 1985 to 1994 his team made its way to the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs twice and won the Big Sky championship in 1992 under head coach Dick Zornes.[3] From Eastern Washington, McElwain took an offensive coordinator position at Montana State. He enjoyed a successful career with the Bobcats from 1995 to 1999, and coached the offense to the number one scoring offense in the Big Sky Conference in 1998 with 31.6 points per game.[3]

McElwain's first coaching job in Division I-A football was at University of Louisville where he was the receivers and special teams coach from 2000 to 2002. At Louisville, he tutored All-Conference USA receivers Arnold Jackson, Deion Branch, Damien Dorsey and Zek Parker. Also his special teams set a school record of nine blocked kicks in 2000–2001 season. He was then offered the assistant head coaching position at Michigan State when he followed Louisville's head coach John L. Smith there.[4] With the Spartans his coaching of the receivers and special teams helped lead them to the Alamo Bowl in his first season.[3]

Oakland RaidersEdit

McElwain's coaching stint in the National Football League was brief. After his success at Michigan State, he was offered a job to be the quarterback coach for the Oakland Raiders. He was with them for one year in which the Oakland Raiders ended the season 2–14.[4] When head coach Art Shell was dismissed following the season, so were several of the assistant coaches, including McElwain.[4]

Return to college football: Fresno StateEdit

In 2007, McElwain accepted a job to become the offensive coordinator at California State University, Fresno (Fresno State).[4] With the Fresno State Bulldogs, he built a powerhouse offense which ranked 38th in the country averaging 419.5 yards a game and 32nd in the nation in points per game with 32.9. He helped lead the 2007 Fresno State team to a 9–4 record on the year including a win over Georgia Tech in the Humanitarian Bowl.[3]

University of AlabamaEdit

On February 1, 2008, McElwain accepted an offer from Nick Saban to be the offensive coordinator at the University of Alabama.[5] In his first season as the offensive coordinator, the Crimson Tide finished the regular season 12–0, before falling to the University of Florida in the 2008 SEC Championship Game and the University of Utah in the 2009 Sugar Bowl.[6]

In 2009, McElwain's offense helped lead the Crimson Tide to a 12–0 regular season record. The team went on to defeat the top-ranked team in the country, the Florida Gators, in the 2009 SEC Championship Game. There his offense dominated the Gators number one defense in the country and compiled 490 yards of offense, more than twice the yards the Gators defense had averaged giving up all year. McElwain's offense outrushed the Gators' offense 251 yards to 88 yards, 63 of those yards coming from the 2007 Heisman winner Tim Tebow. His offense put up 32 points and held on to the ball for 39 minutes and 37 seconds, almost twice the Gators total of 20 minutes and 23 seconds.[7] Alabama went on to beat the Texas Longhorns in the 2010 BCS National Championship Game. In 2011, the Crimson Tide finished the season with a 12–1 record, and beat the LSU Tigers 21–0 in the 2012 BCS National Championship Game.

Colorado StateEdit

On December 12, 2011, sources revealed that McElwain had accepted the head coaching position with Colorado State.[8][9][10] A press conference was held at the Colorado State University Rams indoor practice facility on December 13, 2011 to officially announce the hiring.[8][9][10]

McElwain's tenure, dubbed by the school's athletic department as "A Bold New Era", began on a high note. McElwain's Rams rallied from an 11-point deficit to defeat arch-rival Colorado 22–17 at Sports Authority Field in Denver on September 1. McElwain became the first CSU coach to win his debut since Jerry Wampfler in 1970 and the first ever to win his debut against Colorado. The momentum did not last long though as CSU suffered a 22–7 setback in their home opener one week later to defending FCS National Champion North Dakota State, the start of a six-game losing skid. The program showed improvement towards the end of the season, winning three of their final five games to finish 4–8 in McElwain's first season.

McElwain's second season with CSU was much more successful. CSU began the season losing their first two games, both of which they had led in the 4th quarter. However, CSU finished the season winning 8 of its next 12 games. McElwain finished his second season with a record of 8–6 after CSU's miraculous comeback win in the New Mexico Bowl.

McElwain's third season with CSU led to even greater accomplishments. After a Week 2 loss at Boise State, the Rams reeled off 9 straight wins, climbing as high as #21 in the national rankings, and being in the conversation for a possible New Year's Day bowl bid. Those hopes were dashed, however, in their final regular season game at Air Force, when the Falcons hit a game-winning field goal as time expired, finishing CSU's regular season at 10–2. Notwithstanding this loss, the Rams were noted for a powerful offense throughout the year. Colorado State averaged 498 yards per game (13th best in the nation), while boasting the nation's second most efficient quarterback in Garrett Grayson and the top receiver by yards per game (149.1) and touchdowns (17) in Rashard Higgins.[11] Under McElwain, the Rams were one of only two "Group of 5" teams with victories in 2014 over two Power 5 conference teams, defeating both Colorado and Boston College.

As a result of the successful transformation of the program, McElwain was named the Mountain West Conference's coach of the year on December 2, 2014.[11]

University of FloridaEdit

On December 4, 2014, ESPN reported that McElwain had agreed to become head coach of the University of Florida.[12]

The Gators won in McElwain's debut on September 5, 2015 against New Mexico State by a score of 61–13. The Gators' regular season record under McElwain was 10–2, which included a 38–10 upset against No. 3 Ole Miss that moved the Gators to #11 the following week. After the suspension of quarterback Will Grier, the Gators lost to LSU 35-28. McElwain led the Gators to their first SEC Eastern Division championship since 2009 with a 9–7 win over Vanderbilt, becoming the first coach to win an SEC Eastern Division championship in his first year. After clinching the SEC Eastern Division championship, the Gators suffered consecutive blowout losses to Florida State, Alabama, and Michigan by a combined score of 97-22.

McElwain was named the 2015 SEC Coach of the Year in his first season as the head coach of Florida.[13]

McElwain won a second consecutive Eastern Division title in 2016. However, that season saw a second-half collapse against Tennessee and blowout losses to Arkansas, Florida State and Alabama.

McElwain became the target of online ridicule in 2017 when a photo of a man, who looks similar to him, naked and in a compromising position with a shark on a boat surfaced on the internet. McElwain denied the allegations that he was the man in the photo, who was subsequently identified as a retired New York City police officer. [14]

During an October 23 press conference, McElwain alluded to death threats against himself and his players. Later that day, Florida officials revealed that McElwain offered "no additional details" about those threats. According to ESPN, this led school officials to seriously consider firing McElwain for cause.[15]

On October 28, 2017, the Gators were set to take on the Georgia Bulldogs when rumors began to surface that Florida officials were progressing with the idea of firing McElwain for cause, despite Athletic Director Scott Stricklin stating that no such conversations were being had. [16] A day later on October 29, 2017 following a 42–7 loss to rival Georgia, McElwain met with athletic director Scott Stricklin and other university officials. At that meeting, school officials told McElwain that they intended to fire him for cause, and contended that they did not owe him a buyout because he failed to tell them about the threats he, his family, and his players had supposedly received.[17] Ultimately, Florida and McElwain mutually agreed to part ways, effective immediately.[18] He was replaced by interim head coach Randy Shannon, who had been serving as Florida's defensive coordinator during the 2017 season.[19]

On November 7, 2017, an article by ESPN's Mark Schlabach and Edward Aschoff featured some insights as to why McElwain had been fired from Florida. Reportedly, relations between McElwain and the administration had been rather strained from the time McElwain arrived on campus. Frequent comments from McElwain demonstrated his criticism of the state of the program and the administration's commitment to him, which ultimately created an abrasive relationship between McElwain and the administration. School officials interviewed by ESPN said that McElwain had been "an odd fit" for Florida from the start, and claimed that his comments about the supposed threats made it apparent that "this was not going to work."[17]

The Orlando Sentinel, on October 28, 2017, reported also on McElwain's poor performance on the football field after being hired to fix the offense. Three years ago, former UF athletics director Jeremy Foley hired McElwain to not only win games, but to fix an offense that had become dreary and downtrodden under former coach Will Muschamp.In Muschamp’s final season, the Gators were ranked an awful 96th in the country in total offense. In McElwain’s two-plus seasons, the Gators have ranked an even more abysmal 111th, 116th and now 112th (at the time of his firing). Defense and recruiting were also poor by Florida Gator standards.

University of MichiganEdit

On February 20, 2018, McElwain was named the Wide Receivers Coach for the Michigan Wolverines. On December 2, 2018 it was announced he would be leaving Michigan to become the next head coach at Central Michigan University.

Central Michigan UniversityEdit

McElwain was announced as the 29th head football coach of the Central Michigan Chippewas on December 2, 2018. [20]

Personal lifeEdit

Jim McElwain is married to Karen McElwain, and has two daughters, Johanna and Elizabeth, and one son, Jerrett.[21]

McElwain was radio personality Colin Cowherd's roommate in college at Eastern Washington. [22]

When the McElwains sold their home in Gainesville, Florida, they took a loss of roughly $400,000, which led to media jokes about Jim taking another loss at Florida. However, this transaction was ultimately an act of philanthropy. A previous owner of their home had designed it to be accessible to wheelchair users, and the McElwains had converted an eight-car garage into a guest wing. The purchasers, medical equipment company CEO Rick Staab and his wife Michelle, have three children, with the oldest being wheelchair-bound due to dystonia, and the second-oldest less seriously affected by the same condition. The Staabs were looking for a larger home, and Rick remembered attending a fundraiser at the McElwain house and realized that it would meet his family's unique needs. The Staabs planned to turn the converted garage, which included a wheelchair lift into the main house, into an apartment for their oldest child, and felt that the home could be a long-term home for the dystonia charity they had founded more than a decade earlier. Before the McElwains had even listed their home, Rick contacted their real estate agent and made an offer. The McElwains initially considered it a lowball offer, but once they learned that it came from the Staabs, they began discussing a sale, and closed on the transaction in early 2018.[23]

The McElwains' living arrangements at Jim's current post at Central Michigan are unique; they live in a barn a few miles from campus. Shortly after McElwain was hired, he attended a party at the home of the athletic director that was attended by many of the program's biggest donors, among them Chuck McGuirk, the namesake of CMU's basketball arena. When McGuirk asked the McElwains where they planned to live, they told him that they would like to live in a barn. Unknown to the McElwains at the time, McGuirk had purchased a farm a few miles from campus several years earlier that included a 6,000-square-foot barn, and he had thought about building living quarters on the lower level. The McElwains envisioned the barn as a meeting space for large groups in addition to a living space. When they visited the barn, they were sold on its potential, and McGuirk spearheaded the conversion of the barn into a combined home and meeting space.[24]

Head coaching recordEdit

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs Coaches# AP°
Colorado State Rams (Mountain West Conference) (2012–2014)
2012 Colorado State 4–8 3–5 T–6th
2013 Colorado State 8–5 5–3 3rd (Mountain) W New Mexico
2014 Colorado State 10–3 6–2 T–2nd (Mountain) Las Vegas*
Colorado State: 22–16 14–10 * Did not coach bowl game
Florida Gators (Southeastern Conference) (2015–2017)
2015 Florida 10–4 7–2 1st (Eastern) L Citrus 25 25
2016 Florida 9–4 6–3 1st (Eastern) W Outback 13 14
2017 Florida** 3–4 3–3 (Eastern)
Florida: 22–12 16–8
Central Michigan Chippewas (Mid-American Conference) (2019–present)
2019 Central Michigan 1–0 0–0 (West)
Central Michigan: 1–0 0–0
Total: 45–28
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title
Indicates BCS bowl, Bowl Alliance or Bowl Coalition game. #Rankings from final Coaches' Poll.
°Rankings from final AP Poll.

**McElwain was fired by Florida prior to the Missouri game. Defensive coordinator Randy Shannon served as interim coach for the remainder of the season.

Coaching treeEdit

Notable head coaches under whom McElwain has served:

Assistant coaches under McElwain who became NCAA head coaches:


  2. 2.0 2.1 "McElwain Joins NFL coaching ranks". March 2, 2006. Retrieved December 10, 2011.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 "Player bio: Jim McElwain". University of Alabama Athletics Media Relations Office. Retrieved December 10, 2011.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Kusek, Joe (May 16, 2007). "Montana native Jim McElwain at Fresno State after year in NFL". Billings Gazette. Retrieved December 10, 2011.
  5. Kusek, Joe (March 11, 2008). "McElwain's nomadic life finds him in Alabama". Billings Gazette. Retrieved December 10, 2011.
  6. Varney, James (March 11, 2008). "Alabama Coach Nick Saban still displeased with conclusion of 2008 season". The Times-Picayune (New Orleans: Retrieved December 10, 2011.
  7. Estes, Gentry (December 6, 2009). "It wasn't close: Tide wins SEC Championship to secure team's shot at national title". Press-Register (Mobile, AL). Retrieved December 10, 2011.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Dempsey, Chris (December 12, 2011). "CSU to name Alabama's Jim McElwain new head football coach, sources say". The Denver Post. Retrieved December 12, 2011.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Schlabach, Mark (December 12, 2011). "Jim McElwain in as CSU coach". Retrieved December 12, 2011.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Gould, Izzy (December 12, 2011). "Jim McElwain to be named head coach at Colorado State". Retrieved December 12, 2011.
  11. 11.0 11.1 "Florida AD talks to Jim McElwain". Retrieved December 3, 2014.
  12. "Jim McElwain to coach Florida". December 4, 2014.
  13. "Jim McElwain Named 2015 SEC Coach of the Year". Retrieved December 10, 2015.
  15. Florida coach Jim McElwain on buyout speculation: 'We'll see'. ESPN, October 28, 2017.
  16. Barnett, Zach. "Report: Florida looking to fire Jim McElwain for cause". Retrieved March 13, 2018.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Aschoff, Edward; Schlabach, Mark. "Inside Jim McElwain's final days at Florida". ESPN. Retrieved November 7, 2017.
  18. UAA Communications (October 29, 2017). "McElwain, UAA Mutually Agree to Part Ways". Retrieved October 29, 2017.
  19. Bieler, Des (October 29, 2017). "Florida decides to ‘part ways’ with coach Jim McElwain; Randy Shannon promoted". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 29, 2017.
  21. "McElwain Joins NFL coaching ranks". March 2, 2006. Retrieved December 10, 2011.
  22. "1. He's from Montana". USA Today.
  23. Baker, Matt (April 6, 2018). "The real reason ex-Gators coach Jim McElwain took a loss on his Florida home isn’t so funny". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved May 23, 2019.
  24. Rittenberg, Adam (May 21, 2019). "'Our head coach lives in a barn': Why Jim McElwain fits right in at CMU". Retrieved May 23, 2019.

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