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Jim McElwain pledges to return for 2020 season


Central Michigan coach Jim McElwain paces the sideline against San Diego State during the New Mexico Bowl Dec. 21 at Dreamstyle Stadium in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Jim McElwain got up from his seat at the postgame press conference table, shook his head multiple times and walked out of the room.

Moments earlier, amidst his sarcastic laughter, McElwain confirmed he would remain with Central Michigan as the head coach for the 2020 season.

“What?” McElwain said, chuckling while observing the room. “Yeah. Didn’t I just say that? Thanks though, I appreciate that. Alright.”

Before McElwain’s definitive answer, the former SEC coach explained the football team needed to take the next step to become consistent winners. He also touched on his excitement for returning players and newcomers, and he even said he couldn’t wait to get back with the team following winter break.

But McElwain, who has all of his assistant coaches on 1-year contracts, never truly spelled out his plans to return.

McElwain's name first appeared Dec. 4 in a report that he was an emerging candidate for the head coaching job at Missouri, where Barry Odom was fired Nov. 30 after four years.

The Missouri job eventually went to Appalachian State's Eliah Drinkwitz.

As Power Five jobs have been filled, it seems as if McElwain will remain with the Chippewas, at least through the 2020 season, but that's not to say a different opportunity that entices the longtime coach could open up in the head coaching carousel.

That's exactly what led to Western Michigan coach PJ Fleck's exit for Minnesota.

However, McElwain has now promised his return to Mount Pleasant in hopes of taking Central Michigan to new heights.

The Chippewas finished 8-6 overall and 6-2 in the Mid-American Conference this season but were unable to secure the Victory Cannon Trophy, Michigan MAC Trophy, MAC championship or a bowl game victory.

McElwain was named the 2019 MAC Coach of the Year, as he was at Colorado State in the Mountain West Conference (2014) and at Florida in the SEC (2015). 

“We came a long way, but the next step to build this program is to learn what we need to do to take the next step and become a consistent winner," McElwain said. "We’ve got parts; we’ve got parts coming in. I’m excited about it.”

The Chippewas start back up Jan. 12, the Sunday before the spring semester begins, with a team meeting.

"Hopefully, they come back thirsty for more," McElwain said. "I appreciate everything that everybody’s done for us this season, and it’s only the beginning, the beginning of something really great at Central Michigan University. 

"I’m proud to be a Chippewa and can’t wait to get started after this break.”