CSURAMS.COM Jim McElwain Bio - Colorado State University Official Athletic Site Colorado State University Official Athletic Site - Football

Jim McElwain
Jim  McElwain

Head Coach

Years at CSU:
3rd Season in 2014


CSU football team continues to bring national recognition to program

McElwain named AFCA Coach of the Year for Region 5


CSU Coach McElwain named Mountain West Coach of the Year

First conference coach of year honor for CSU since Lubick in 2000


Rams place 15 on All-Mountain West teams

Four CSU players earn first-team All-MW honors


McElwain named semifinalist for Maxwell Football Club Collegiate Coach of the Year

CSU head coach one of two Mountain West coaches on semifinalist list


Postgame notes

CSU vs. Hawai'i


Jim McElwain weekly press conference

Jim McElwain weekly press conference with Weston Richburg and Joe Kawulok


Jim McElwain postgame press conference

Jim McElwain postgame press conference following 42-30 loss to Boise State


Jim McElwain weekly press conference

Jim McElwain weekly press conference


Jim McElwain weekly press conference


Jim McElwain weekly press conference


CSU vs. Air Force

CSU vs. Air Force football


CSU Football vs. New Mexico

CSU Football vs. New Mexico - photos by Don Reichert


Football vs. New Mexico

NCAA Football: New Mexico at Colorado State (USATSI)


CSU Football vs. Hawai'i

CSU Football vs. Hawai'i - photos by Dan Byers


CSU Football vs. Hawai'i

CSU Football vs. Hawai'i - photos by Don Reichert

There are turnarounds, and then there are complete transformations. What Jim McElwain has done in two seasons as head coach at Colorado State easily surpasses the confines of a turnaround. His impact on the program has not only brought wins, but has transformed every aspect of the way his student-athletes approach each day, both on and off the field.

McElwain, a 29-year coaching veteran, became the 20th head football coach in Colorado State program history on Dec. 13, 2011. He spent the 2008-11 seasons as offensive coordinator at Alabama, where he played a key role in leading the Crimson Tide to two BCS national championships (2009 and '11).

Under McElwain's guidance the 2013 CSU Rams won eight games--the school's most in 12 seasons--and finished with a victory in the New Mexico Bowl over Pac-12 foe Washington State. As monumental as it was to win the school's first bowl game since 2008, it was the way the Rams won, scoring 18 points in the game's final three minutes for a 48-45 victory, that epitomized everything McElwain has worked to instill in his team since his arrival in Fort Collins: To adapt, to overcome, to handle chaos and to never give up.

The New Mexico Bowl win capped an 8-6 season that saw McElwain's team re-write the school's record book in several offensive categories, including new standards for single-season points scored (507) and yards per game (470.8). The 2013 Rams scored 50 or more points four times and topped the 500-yard mark for total offense eight times, both school records, and were the only team in Division I FBS to feature a 3,500-yard passer (Garrett Grayson, 3,696) and a 1,500-yard rusher (Kapri Bibbs, 1,741). CSU ranked 24th in the nation in total offense and 22nd in scoring offense, and showed tremendous balance with a No. 27 rushing rank and No. 30 passing rank.

Colorado State made the second-biggest improvement among FBS schools in scoring offense from 2012 to 2013 (from 100th to 22nd) behind Auburn (from 112th to 12th). The Ram's year-to-year improvement in total offense was fourth-biggest in FBS (100th to 24th) behind Auburn (+104), Washington (+84) and Missouri (+80).

Further illustrating the program's return to prominence, two Rams--center Weston Richburg and tight end Crockett Gillmore--were selected in the top 100 picks of the 2014 NFL Draft after being invited to play in the Senior Bowl, and three--Richburg, Gillmore and Bibbs--were invited to the NFL Scouting Combine. Linebacker Shaquil Barrett was named Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year and CSU's five first-team All-MW selections were its most since 2003. Bibbs and Barrett signed as rookie free agents with the Denver Broncos after Richburg was selected in the second round (#43) of the 2014 NFL Draft by the New York Giants and Gillmore in the third round (#99) by the Baltimore Ravens.

In his first game as head coach in 2012, McElwain immediately put his stamp on the CSU program, guiding the Rams to a come-from-behind 22-19 victory over in-state rival Colorado, on Sept. 1, 2012. In so doing, McElwain became the first CSU head football coach since 1970 to win his first game and the first to defeat Colorado in his first CSU-CU matchup.

The Rams under McElwain in 2012 showed consistent progress over the second half of the season, most notably on offense where the team averaged 163.3 rushing yards per game over the last four contests, after netting 96.2 yards on the ground in the first six. Colorado State, despite seeing three different quarterbacks make at least three starts each because of injury for the first time since 1981, tied for 17th in the nation (2nd Mountain West) in red-zone scoring at 87.5% (21-24). In their eight conference games, the Rams' efficiency was 15-of-17 (88.2%).

A school-record 18 different Colorado State players scored touchdowns in McElwain's debut season, tied for second-most in the nation, while seeing 19 players make their first career start, eighth-most among NCAA FBS programs.

Defensively, the 2012 Rams ranked fourth in the Mountain West in passing yards allowed (203.2; 27th FBS). Six Rams earned All-Mountain West honors under McElwain's tutelage, including one first-team selection (P Pete Kontodiakos) and two second-teamers (DE Lanston Tanyi and K Jared Roberts).

McElwain, 52, came to Fort Collins from Alabama, where he had served as Nick Saban's offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach from 2008-11. His hire was officially announced on Dec. 13, 2011, in a press conference on the Colorado State campus. McElwain returned to campus early the morning of Jan. 10, 2012, just hours after his Crimson Tide defeated previous No. 1 LSU in New Orleans to claim their second national championship in three seasons. He hit the ground running as the Rams' new leader and has rapidly re-shaped the entire program in large part defining what Colorado State's "Bold New Era" is all about.

In four seasons at Alabama, McElwain played a key role in the Tide compiling an overall record of 48-6. His offense led the nation by committing only 57 turnovers in that period and sent two players to the Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York: 2009 winner Mark Ingram and 2011 finalist Trent Richardson. In 2011 Alabama led the SEC in rushing at 219.8 yards per game, ranked second in total offense at 433.4 total yards per contest and third in scoring at 36 points per game. In 2010, the team was third in both total yards and scoring.

The veteran coach tutored first-year quarterbacks in two of his four seasons at Alabama: Greg McElroy in 2009 and A.J. McCarron in 2011. Saban brought McElwain to Tuscaloosa from Fresno State to replace Major Applewhite at the reins of the Tide offense.

The offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach under Pat Hill at Fresno State in 2007, McElwain improved the Bulldogs' output from 338.2 total yards per game the year before his arrival to 419.5 (No. 38 in the nation), and from 23.0 points per contest to 32.9 (No. 32). Fresno State went 9-4 in his only season, including a 40-28 triumph over Georgia Tech in the Humanitarian Bowl.

In 2006, he coached the quarterbacks of the NFL's Oakland Raiders, under Pro Football Hall of Famer Art Shell, after a three-year stint (2003-05) as assistant head coach, receivers coach and special-teams coach at Michigan State on the staff of John L. Smith.

His Spartans receivers led the team to the 2003 Alamo Bowl, establishing school records with 312 receptions and 3,510 receiving yards. The following season on special teams, he coached an All-American, punter Brandon Fields, and the Big Ten's scoring leader, kicker Dave Rayner. Prior to his departure for the NFL, Michigan State set a school mark with 24 touchdown receptions in 2005, when five of his wideouts had at least 28 catches.

McElwain coached against Colorado State in the 2000 Liberty Bowl, culminating his first season with Louisville. He spent three years (2000-02) with the Cardinals, in charge of wide receivers and special teams, helping the program to three consecutive bowls. Four of his players earned first-team all-conference honors. Three of his pupils ranked among Louisville's all-time leading receivers, including future Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch.

The offensive coordinator, quarterbacks and receivers coach at Montana State, McElwain coached in his home state with the Bobcats from 1995-99. In Bozeman, he helped QB Rob Compson compile almost 7,000 career passing yards as well as 54 touchdowns, a program record, and also tutored Chip Hobbs, the Bobcats' all-time leading career receiver (144 receptions, 2,060 yards, 18 touchdowns). No other Big Sky offense in 1998 was more prolific than Montana State, which scored 31.6 points per contest.

He broke into the coaching profession at his alma mater, Eastern Washington, where from 1985-94 he held a host of positions on the staff of head coach Dick Zornes. He launched his career as a graduate assistant and finished his tenure with the Eagles as quarterbacks and receivers coach. During his time there, Eastern Washington earned a berth in both the 1992 and 1995 Division I-AA playoffs, and a share of the 1992 Big Sky crown. In addition, in 1993 he coached a third-team All-American, Tony Brooks, who concluded his career as the school's all-time leading receiver, with 2,969 career yards.

McElwain played quarterback at Eastern Washington from 1980-83 and earned his bachelor's degree in education from EWU.

An all-state field general at Sentinel High School in Missoula, Mont., McElwain grew up 119 miles up Interstate 90 from Butte, which produced former CSU head coach Sonny Lubick. He joins Lubick, Jim Sweeney and Bobby Petrino among the most prominent coaches produced by the state.

Jim and his wife, Karen, have three children, JoHanna, Elizabeth and Jerret.


  • Louisville wide receiver and Super Bowl XXXIX MVP Deion Branch
  • Alabama running back and Heisman Tropy winner Mark Ingram, now with the New Orleans Saints
  • New York Jets 2011 draft selection quarterback Greg McElroy
  • Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones, a first-team All-American and 2011 first-round draft selection of the Atlanta Falcons
  • Alabama Doak Walker Award winner and Indianapolis Colts running back Trent Richardson

Jim McElwain's Year-by-Year Coaching Positions:

Seasons School/Team Title/Position Coached
2012-14 Colorado State Head Coach
2008-11 Alabama Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks
2007 Fresno State Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks
2006 Oakland Raiders Quarterbacks
2003-05 Michigan State Asst. Head Coach/Wide Receivers/Special Teams
2000-02 Louisville Wide Receivers/Special Teams
1995-99 Montana State Offensive Coordinator/Wide Receivers/Special Teams
1985-94 Eastern Washington Quarterbacks/Wide Receivers

Season Appearance/Game Opponent Result
1985 Division I-AA first round Idaho W 42-38
1985 Division I-AA quarterfinals Northern Iowa L 17-14
1992 Division I-AA first round Northern Iowa L 17-14
2000 Liberty Bowl Colorado State L 22-17
2001 Liberty Bowl Brigham Young W 28-10
2002 GMAC Bowl Marshall L 38-15
2003 Alamo Bowl Nebraska L 17-3
2007 Humanitarian Bowl Georgia Tech W 40-28
2008 Sugar Bowl Utah L 31-17
2009 BCS National Championship (Pasadena) Texas W 37-21
2010 Capital One Bowl Michigan State W 49-7
2011 BCS National Championship (New Orleans) LSU W 21-0
2013 Gildan New Mexico Bowl (Albuquerque) Washington State W 48-45

What they've said about Jim McElwain:

Nick Saban, Head Coach at Alabama: "Jim has worked as hard as anybody I've ever had coach for us in our program, and I certainly appreciate the job he has done. He is very conscientious and driven to do well. He's a perfectionist in a lot of ways, and he takes it as hard as anybody if things don't work out the way he'd like. He's done a fantastic job, and I'm sure he'll be great as the head coach at Colorado State."

Pat Hill, Former Fresno State head coach and current Atlanta Falcons offensive line coach: "The greatest thing about Jim was not only his football knowledge, but his ability to motivate. I thought he did a really good job with that offense from a motivational stand point. He's a people person. He's got great football knowledge, but the No. 1 thing he can do is he can motivate a group of people and get them moving in the same direction. He did a great job with that."

Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints RB; 2009 Heisman Trophy Winner at Alabama: "Coach McElwain is going to do a great job at Colorado State. In the three years I played for him at Alabama, he did a great job of creating a balanced offense that enjoyed a lot of success for us, both as a team, and myself individually. Personally, he helped me to continue to improve in college and also prepared me for the challenges of the next level. All of the qualities he showed as an offensive coordinator will serve him well in his new position."

Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons WR; 2013 Pro Bowler: "Coach McElwain was a great coach and I learned a lot from him while I was at Alabama. The one thing about Coach McElwain is that he had us prepared for every game and every situation that could come up in a game."

Greg McElroy, former New York Jets QB: "Jim will be a fantastic addition to the Colorado State family. I couldn't be happier for both parties. I'm confident Coach Mac will take CSU to new heights. He helped us turn it around at Alabama and I know he'll be able to do it in Fort Collins."

Weston Richburg, New York Giants C; 2014 NFL Draft 43rd overall pick: "He's completely turned this program upside down. It took me a while to adapt to changes and do things the way he wants things to be done and I think that is a big part why things have changed this year (in 2013). Guys have finally come to understand what is expected and have bought into what he wants. That is why you see what you see this year and I can only see it improving with him in control and with guys buying in."

Crockett Gillmore, Baltimore Ravens TE; 2014 NFL Draft 99th overall pick:"When he first came you see all the awards and accolades that he has, so you expect it to just happen, (but) you didn't understand the work he put in and the work he put us through. You thought you were working before, mentally you think, `oh yeah, I'm pushing myself to the limit.' He gets you to continue on that. When you are able to function as a whole team at the highest level and continue to build on that, you see the kind of numbers we put up this year (2013), how explosive this offense can be, how dominant the defense can be; the special teams game has been on point all year. To really see him come through and change your mindset of `OK I'm tired but let's work a little harder.' Now it's you're not tired until the fourth quarter, but you are just starting to get tired. You aren't done, you are just hitting that juice. To see him really change the mindset and change what we have been able to do, it's been awesome."

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