Sparaco’s CSU offer up in air |

Sparaco’s CSU offer up in air

Jon Mitchell
FILE - In this Sept. 27, 2014, file photo, Colorado State head coach Jim McElwain talks in his headset during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against Boston College in Boston. A person familiar with the search says Florida has hired McElwain as its next football coach. The person spoke to The Associated Press on Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014, on the condition of anonymity because the Gators have not announced details of their coaching search. The person says McElwain officially accepted the job Wednesday after working out deal to reduce a $7.5 million buyout. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia, File)

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — The departure Thursday of football coach Jim McElwain from Colorado State for Florida clouds the plans of an area prep football player.

Glenwood Springs High School sophomore Dante Sparaco, the starting quarterback for the Demons for the season just ended, received a oral scholarship offer from McElwain last summer following a football camp in Fort Collins. That offer went into question following confirmation Thursday morning that Florida and CSU had negotiated a buyout of McElwain’s contract that would have kept him coaching the Rams through the 2018 season.

“It’s tough to see a coach who has offered you a scholarship move on to a different school,” said Sparaco, who spoke by phone as he traveled with Glenwood’s boys basketball team to a tournament in Alamosa on Thursday. “Even after some of the things we’ve spoken about, I understand the opportunity he has to go to Florida. Hopefully there will be other opportunities for me that will work out.”

McElwain, who coached the Rams for the past three seasons, led Colorado State to a 10-2 record this year after taking over a program that had gone 3-9 during coach Steve Fairchild’s final season in Fort Collins in 2011. Florida will pay him $3.5 million a year for six years — a hefty increase of the $1.5 million CSU was paying him — and negotiated the buyout on McElwain’s CSU contract to $7 million. That includes $5 million in cash now and $2 million to play a football game against Florida in Gainesville near the end of the decade.

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The buyout, according to Colorado State, is the largest such buyout in college football history. It eclipses the $4.3 million that Texas paid to Louisville to hire Charlie Strong earlier this year.

Sparaco said before this football season that he had spoken with McElwain about his future at CSU following the scholarship offer. McElwain responded to Sparaco by saying he thought that Colorado State was the “best school” for him to build his legacy.

“Regardless of what he told us, we understand that opportunities arise and that this is a business,” said Dean Sparaco, Dante’s father, who took part in the conversation. “I’m sure that when he told us that he believed it at the time.”

He also said that Colorado State had contacted him and Dante on Wednesday, letting them know a coaching change was taking place and how the transition process could work. He admitted, however, that they said nothing pertaining to the scholarship offer.

Dante Sparaco, a who is 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, just finished his first full season as the starting QB for Glenwood. According to stats posted on the team’s site, he finished with 1,530 passing yards on 112-of-195 passing with six touchdowns and five interceptions. He also rushed for more than 900 yards and 13 touchdowns on 166 carries, helping Glenwood go 6-4 overall and reach the Class 3A state playoffs for the second consecutive season.

By NCAA rule, college football prospects can’t sign with a school until just before their senior year. Sparaco has made unofficial visits to Notre Dame, Colorado and Stanford, but he said most of the interest he’s received recently has come from Oregon and Notre Dame.

He hasn’t ruled out Colorado State, either.

“I love coach Mac and what he’s done there,” Sparaco said. “But just because he’s leaving doesn’t mean I’m not considering CSU anymore.”

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