When Colorado State hired away a Nick Saban assistant coach from Alabama, success was expected over time. After just a couple of years on the job, Jim McElwain has turned the Rams around and has them starting to think about a realistic run at the Mountain West Conference championship in the near future (watch out Boise State, Utah State and Fresno State). Looking to secure that future potential with McElwain at the helm, Colorado State has finalized a new contract with their head coach keeping him in Fort Collins through the 2018 season.
McElwain’s new five-year contract rewards him with a raise to $1.5 million per season (from $1.35 million), keeping him on top of the MWC in coaching salaries after Chris Petersen left Boise State for Washington. Even with the highest contract value in the conference, McElwain is considered a bargain for Colorado State. The new contract comes with an initial buyout price tag of $7.5 million if McElwain leaves Colorado State before the end of his contract. For a coach with a rising profile that would make for an attractive option to fill a vacancy at a power conference school in the next round of the coaching carousel (assuming Colorado State continues to improve in 2014), that is a great deal for Colorado State.
“Jim McElwain has breathed new life into our football program,” Colorado State athletics director John Morris said in a statement released by the school’s athletic department. “Last season’s exhilarating come-from-behind victory in the New Mexico Bowl illustrated all of the positive attributes McElwain and his staff have infused in their student-athletes—the perseverance to never give up and the unique bond to support one another on every play. That was a moment that all Rams fans are extremely proud of, and it provided a glimpse of where this program is headed.”
Colorado State went 8-6 last season, the first winning season in Fort Collins since 2008. McElwain was hired as head coach prior to the 2012 season. He quickly improved on the previous season’s win total with four wins in his debut season and doubled that a season later. This season the Rams figure to be a threat in the MWC Mountain Division, although Boise State and Utah State are still considered by many as the favorites in 2014.