GAINESVILLE, Fla. — After working though a buyout issue, Missoula Sentinel Jim McElwain is leaving Colorado State to become Florida's next head coach.
The Gators are expected to announce the hiring later Thursday.
McElwain officially accepted the job Thursday morning after getting his $7.5 million buyout reduced, a person familiar with the search said. The person spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the Gators have not announced details of their coaching search.
The person said Florida traveled to Colorado with the belief that the buyout could and would be whittled down. But Colorado State President Tony Frank stood firm on $7.5 million, and the financial roadblock prompted Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley to leave Colorado without an agreement.
McElwain, his attorney and Colorado State worked out a settlement between Wednesday night and Thursday. He will be introduced at a Saturday news conference in Gainesville.
ESPN first reported the hiring Thursday.
The 52-year-old McElwain replaces Will Muschamp, who was fired Nov. 16. Muschamp agreed to stick around for the final two regular-season games and finished with a 28-21 record in four seasons.
McElwain is 22-16 in three seasons at Colorado State. He was offensive coordinator at Alabama before moving to Fort Collins, Colorado.
Foley detailed several requirements for Muschamp's replacement, saying his next coach had to have high integrity, character and needed to be a fit at Florida.
McElwain has NFL experience, Southeastern Conference ties and a track record of success on the offensive side of the ball. His offense ranks 13th nationally, averaging 498 yards a game.
McElwain took over a program that went 3-9 for three consecutive seasons (2009-11), but has enjoyed a quick turnaround since his arrival. The Rams went 4-8 in 2012 and 8-6 last year before this season's breakthrough performance. They have wins against rival Colorado and Boston College in 2014.
Foley said offensive success was paramount for Florida's next coach after four years of offensive futility in Gainesville, where fans got somewhat spoiled watching Steve Spurrier's "Fun 'n' Gun" in the 1990s and then Urban Meyer's high-scoring spread scheme in the late 2000s.
The Gators finished 105th, 103rd and 113th in total offense during Muschamp's first three seasons. They rank 90th this season, but Muschamp said last week that he's leaving behind a "deep and talented" roster.
"They've got a good locker room and a bunch of talented players and a bunch of good kids," Muschamp said. "We've cleaned up the place and it's ready for somebody to go take the next step."
McElwain could be the guy to take them there.
McElwain grew up in Missoula, Montana, and played quarterback at Eastern Washington, where he began his coaching career as a graduate assistant in 1985. He was promoted in 1987 and served as quarterbacks and receivers coach until 1994. He served as the offense coordinator at Montana State for five years (1995-99) before going to Louisville, where he coached receivers and special teams (2000-02).
He also spent time at Michigan State (2003-05), the NFL's Oakland Raiders (2006) and at Fresno State (2007). At Fresno State, his offense averaged 419.5 yards and 32.9 points a game, which got Saban's attention.
The Tide won two national championships with McElwain directing the offense. Florida got a firsthand look at his scheme and success in the 2009 SEC title game. The Tide managed 490 yards in a victory that knocked the Gators out of contention for a second straight national title.
McElwain also has ties to Florida, having successfully recruited the state when he was in Tuscaloosa.
But his offense was the big draw for the Gators. He ran a pro-style attack at Alabama, but has gone back to a spread offense at Colorado State. The spread seems like a good fit at Florida, which reverted to it this year after being in a pro-style offense during Muschamp's first three seasons.
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