Yahoo Sports' Pat Forde is reporting that Colorado State head coach Jim McElwain is enough of a top candidate for the head coaching job at Florida that he's had direct contact:
Colorado State coach Jim McElwain has emerged as a leading candidate for the Florida vacancy, multiple sources told Yahoo Sports Sunday.
McElwain and Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley discussed the Gators job Saturday night, sources said.
Information has been gathered on McElwain by Florida officials since the school announced two weeks ago that Will Muschamp would not return as coach, sources said. It is unclear how many other candidates may be involved. Sources said Mississippi coach Hugh Freeze was among those on Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley's radar, but McElwain's name may be at the top of the list.
There were a couple of questionably sourced (to say the least) reports last week about Foley supposedly having offered the job to Freeze, but this is the first story from an outlet with a good background of reporting with any details on the search other than name eliminations. The timing lines up with Foley's promise not to interrupt any regular seasons, as Saturday's results eliminated CSU from the Mountain West title game.
The biggest hitch with McElwain is that his buyout is $7.5 million, big enough that the Gainesville Sun's Pat Dooley crossed McElwain off of the list of potential hires not long ago. [Update: Dooley now says the buyout being negotiable makes McElwain a viable candidate.] Ultimately all contracts are negotiable, and Florida could do things like line up the Rams for guarantee games in the future to bargain down the up front price for prying McElwain away. In any event, CSU didn't insist on that large of a buyout with the intention of rolling over in discussions with other schools mere months later. McElwain will be the most expensive option for Florida no matter how those discussions might go.
At Colorado State, McElwain's records have gone up each year from 4-8 to 8-6 to 10-2. He's well known for his work as Nick Saban's offensive coordinator at Alabama from 2008-11, four rather prosperous years for the Tide.