When Jim McElwain emerged as a serious candidate for the vacant Florida job last winter, the talk around FootballScoop’s virtual water cooler was how the Colorado State head coach fit in Gainesville. And not necessarily McElwain himself, the self-described “dog they dropped off at the Humane Society” has coached all over the country, but his staff.
“Mac has a staff built to recruit Colorado and the surrounding areas and they’re doing an awfully good job at that… but it’s not a staff conducive to go super-recruit Florida,” Scott said in a video in December.
McElwain built the perfect staff to succeed at Colorado State, which was great for building a contender in the Mountain West and useless in rebuilding at Florida.
One person acutely aware of that fact: Jim McElwain.
He brought only one on-the-field assistant with him from Fort Collins to Gainesville, running backs coach Tim Skipper, plus strength coach Mike Kent. That’s an unusually low number for a coach making a mid-major-to-Power-Five jump, but in this case the circumstances demanded it.
“Getting that part right is huge,” McElwain told Dan Wolken of USA Today. “You only get one chance to get it right. I’m not saying (the Colorado State staff) wouldn’t be successful here. Had it been a job on the West Coast, maybe the staff wouldn’t have changed much. It’s hard. Certain guys took it differently. Some understood. Those guys are great coaches and have landed on their feet.”
“They were hoping I’d get (the CSU job) for families’ sake,” said Dave Baldwin, named Colorado State’s interim head coach for the Las Vegas Bowl and now Oregon State’s offensive coordinator. “I was worried about them because I’d been with them the whole time. There’s a reason why you win: It’s the staff. We had great people on the staff. I think most of them knew that they probably didn’t have the opportunity to go with him. I think some of them hoped they would.”
Four of McElwain’s assistants received offers to stay on from new head coach Mike Bobo. Two more landed at Central Michigan and New Mexico, respectively. Baldwin and Skipper are already accounted for. That leaves defensive line coach Greg Lupfer, a victim of his own success, as the only McElwain assistant still looking for work.
“It’s probably the hardest thing you go through as a coach,” McElwain said.