COLUMN: Alford makes the right decision in hiring McElwain
Deflated, devastated and dismantled.
Those are just a few words to describe the 2018 season for the Central Michigan football team. Now-former head coach John Bonamego had his team at 1-11 on the season, the worst finish in program history – dating back to when it all began in 1896.
Bonamego was fired hours after a 51-13 loss to Toledo on Nov. 23, leaving CMU with an even larger void – a head coach.
While CMU was losing three top recruits from Detroit and junior cornerback Sean Bunting to the 2019 NFL Draft, CMU Athletic Director Michael Alford was on the road in pursuit of a new man for Mount Pleasant to call coach.
Eight days passed between Bonamego’s firing and Alford agreeing to a deal with a new head coach, and on Dec. 2, Central Michigan Life broke the news Jim McElwain would become the leader of CMU's football program.
“This is going to be a transition that’s fast and furious, and yet we can’t cut corners,” McElwain said. “If you build the program without the stable foundation, as fast as you rise, it will crumble.”
Did Alford make the right decision?
The simple answer is yes, especially since the contact was a five-year, $400,000 base deal. When looking at the hire from broad perspective, the answer still remains – yes.
The first aspect of McElwain to evaluate is his resume, which is impressive. He was the 2014 Mountain West Conference Coach of the Year at Colorado State and 2015 Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year at Florida. He won two SEC Eastern Division Championship (2015-16), has a head coaching record of 44-28 and owns a winning bowl record. Prior to joining the Chippewas, McElwain was the wide receivers coach for Michigan in 2018. He also worked as the head coach for Colorado State (2012-14) and Florida (2015-17).
McElwain has the obvious experience to oversee a Mid-American Conference program. He also was noted as one of the best recruiters in the nation during his time with the Gators.
Alford made a great hire that could change the course of CMU football.
"Coach McElwain recruits outstanding student-athletes and gets the best out of them. He motivates his players and holds them accountable," Alford said. "He expects them to practice hard, win, go to class, graduate and be strong members of our community."
However, a couple fans have voiced their displeasure in Alford's hiring of McElwain. On Oct. 23, 2017, in a press conference, McElwain alluded to death threats against himself. That same day, Florida officials said McElwain gave “no additional details” about the threats, and ESPN reported the school nearly fired McElwain for cause.
One day after Florida’s 42-7 loss to Georgia, McElwain met with Florida Athletic Director Scott Stricklin and the two parties agreed to part ways. An article by ESPN’s Mark Schlabach and Edward Aschoff claimed relations between McElwain and the Florida administration were strained from the moment he arrived in Gainesville.
Maybe Florida just wasn’t the right fit.
When McElwain was the offensive coordinator at Alabama (2008-11), Colorado State head coach and wide receivers coach at Michigan, not a single ounce of negativity surrounded his presence.
McElwain hit the reset button when he departed from Florida to Michigan. Now, he’s officially back as the leader of a college football program – right in Mount Pleasant, Michigan.