Florida courting CSU football coach McElwain | PostIndependent.com

Florida courting CSU football coach McElwain

Colorado State head coach Jim McElwain reacts after his team gave up a touchdown to Air Force in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game at Air Force Academy, Colo., on Friday, Nov. 28, 2014. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Athletic director Jeremy Foley is headed back to Florida. Colorado State’s Jim McElwain might be right behind him.

Foley left Fort Collins on Wednesday after nearly a day of negotiating with McElwain, and both schools were mum about any decisions regarding Florida’s open head-coaching position.

The Gators released an ambiguous statement saying, “We’ve had very productive conversations with Coach McElwain and his wife Karen and those continue.”

Foley and several key staff members boarded a charter plane and returned to Gainesville. McElwain and his wife stayed behind. Florida even posted a picture of the cockpit on Twitter, having some fun after the plane was tracked across the country Tuesday and Wednesday.

It could be that McElwain wanted to tell his assistants and his players that he was leaving before the Gators announced the hiring. Another charter plane left Fort Collins shortly after Foley’s and headed to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where McElwain’s two youngest children are attending college. It’s unclear if that plane was picking them up and carrying them to Gainesville.

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Foley is looking to replace Will Muschamp, who was fired Nov. 16.

McElwain emerged as the top target, but the $7.5 million buyout in his contract could be a sticking point. Florida is hoping to negotiate a lower settlement with the Gators on the hook for about $8 million to pay off Muschamp and his staff.

Foley has said little publicly about the search since outlining several requirements for Muschamp’s replacement. He wanted his next coach had to have high integrity, character and needed to be a fit at Florida.

The 52-year-old McElwain was born in Montana and spent much of his coaching career out west. But he also has NFL experience, Southeastern Conference ties and a track record of success on the offensive side of the ball.

McElwain is finishing his third season at Colorado State. He led the Rams to a 10-2 record and was named the Mountain West Conference’s coach of the year Tuesday.

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.

Currently on CSU’s roster is redshirt freshman offensive lineman Trae Moxley, who is a 2013 Roaring Fork High graduate. Prior to this season, McElwain gave a verbal scholarship offer to sophomore Glenwood Springs High quarterback Dante Sparaco.

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