Jim McElwain introduced as 29th CMU football head coach


Football Head Coach Jim McElwain answers questions from the media on Dec. 3 at the John G. Kulhavi Events Center.

When Jim McElwain was introduced as the 29th Central Michigan head coach at a press conference Monday morning, supporters in attendance stood up and applauded the first-time Chippewa. 

“Let’s get used to standing on our feet — especially when we are on the field,” McElwain said, in his first public appearance after being hired on Sunday, Dec. 2. 

The press conference started with opening statements from CMU President Bob Davies, Athletic Director Michael Alford and McElwain. With a stress on community fit, Davies and Alford praised the new football head coach and his wife, Karen McElwain. 

McElwain has coached at Florida, the University of Michigan, Alabama and in the NFL over a 33-year coaching tenure. His last job was as an assistant at U-M. As the head coach of the Florida Gators, McElwain earned a 22-12 overall record. He has compiled a 44-28 head coaching record.

McElwain signed a five-year contract with a $400,000 base salary. He will earn $190,000 per year in additional compensation and a $50,000 retention bonus — hiking his total annual compensation to $640,000. 

Team Meeting

The Montana native met with what is left of the Central Michigan football team on Sunday. He described the meeting as an “eye-opener” for the players. 

“They needed to learn how to sit up,” McElwain said, while Alford smiled next to him. “They need to learn how to focus. They need to learn how to communicate non-verbally.” 

McElwain emphasized a winter conditioning program during the question and answer session of the conference. His motivation behind implementing a training program in the winter is to find out who is committed to the team. 

“We’ll find out who wants to be a Chippewa,” he said. 

Coaching Search

Despite only taking nine days to find someone new to lead the Central Michigan football team, Davies joked with Alford in his opening statement by saying: “Next time, go a little bit faster.” 

In the search process, Alford said he looked for a proven winner, someone who could fit at Central Michigan and in the community and someone with offensive prowess. Alford said McElwain checked every box. 

“He was the primary target from day one,” Alford said of McElwain. 

Athletic Director Micheal Alford (left) and CMU Football Head Coach Jim McElwain (right) smile during a press conference announcing McElwain's new position on Dec. 3 at the John G. Kulhavi Events Center.

Offensive Expertise

McElwain, who is known for his offensive schemes, worked as the offensive coordinator at Alabama when they went undefeated in the regular season in 2009. His offense totaled 490 yards of offense in the SEC Championship game against the No. 1-ranked Florida Gators who sported the best defense in the country at the time.  

“Offense fills up the stadium,” McElwain said. “We can get explosive plays.”

Thanks to his time as an assistant at U-M, McElwain said he got a chance to study some of the best offenses in the county.

Replacing John Bonamego

McElwain will be replacing former CMU football head coach John Bonamego, who was fired after the final game of the 2018 regular season on Nov. 23. The Chippewas finished with the worst season in CMU football history last season — a 1-11 record without a single FBS or conference win. 

“I have met (Bonamego), and I have heard nothing but great things about him,” McElwain said. “It is not going to take him long to move forward from this, just knowing the quality that he is. I look forward to visiting with him.”