Colorado State travels to Florida this weekend to face their second consecutive SEC opponent and are looking to string together a surprising win streak against the conference in the process after beating Arkansas last week. The fact that the Rams are hitting the road to play the Gators probably doesn’t raise many eyebrows — Mountain West teams are regular non-conference opponents in the region — but for those with a connection to either fan base, this is probably a contest better known as the ‘Jim McElwain Bowl.’
Yes, McElwain is now the wide receivers coach at Michigan and is busy preparing to play SMU on Saturday. But this game between his former schools was brought about in the first place as the direct result of his hire in Gainesville after three seasons in Fort Collins. As noted by The Tampa Bay Times this week, this is no ordinary contest however — it’s a prohibitively expensive one for the Gators.
You can start with the fact that McElwain once commanded an incredible $7.5 million buyout at Colorado State. That huge number was negotiated down by then-UF AD Jeremy Foley and wound up becoming a $3 million payment over six years for the Gators and a further $2 million payment by McElwain. The Rams weren’t about to give up $2.5 million for free though and agreed to travel to Gainesville for a game — the one on Saturday — that would have a guaranteed $2 million check.
McElwain was fired just two and a half years into his tenure with the Gators however and was paid a similarly hefty buyout of $7.5 million by the school not to run the football program any more. That led to the hire of Dan Mullen in the offseason after a long search but the game remained on the schedule for 2018.
So to recap, Florida paid Colorado State $3 million in buyout money, an additional $2 million guaranteed for a game and then a further $7.5 million to buyout the coach responsible for the game in the first place. Not even getting into the earlier buyout of Will Muschamp (that led to McElwain’s hire) and the cost of bringing in Mullen and company to Gainesville, UF has ponied up a whopping $12.5 million to make this game against Colorado State happen.
It’s a good thing the Gators have some cash lying around but you might want to chuckle whenever some school complains about the cost of bringing in a non-conference opponent in the future. As Florida will certainly tell you, those costs can always be higher.