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McElwain: My goal is to win them all

Jim McElwain

Dec. 13, 2011

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Head Coach Jim McElwain
(Band playing CSU Fight Song) “Hey, let’s make that right there something we do after every game, huh? Let’s go sing that fight song in victory. Great job, band, and I appreciate you being here. Thanks so much.

I just want to start this by saying, what a great honor and privilege it is to be associated with such a great university, a university that we know of throughout the northwest and the Rocky Mountain region as being one of the finest academic institutions there are out there. Through this process, I have had the ability to meet with a lot of different people, but I know this: The importance is what happens at the top. The vision, the commitment, and the direction that we need to go as a program and as a university. Tony (Frank), Jack (Graham), unbelievable vision, unbelievable commitment, and really don’t want to hear ‘no.’ Let’s find a way to go; that is the thing we want to do as a program. Where are we as an athletic program and where are we as a football program? Quite honestly, we are the front porch of the university. What can we do? When you go and buy that house, it is about curb appeal. If the curb appeal is nice and looks good, you are going to go ahead and step into that house and actually check the bones and structure of that house. Well, think about the great bones and structure of the house, from the academic standpoint, from the faculty standpoint, that we have to offer not only this region, but the national, the nation, that we have to offer once we can get them to look inside what a great place Colorado State University is.

“I look forward to working hand-in-hand not only with Tony and Jack, but with the different faculty members, the different departments on campus to do everything we can do to be successful because with them is what makes this great. They are the driving force. We will be the front porch in which we can make that happen. You know, I am really, really fortunate. I grew up in Montana and I know the importance of what it is like to be in a major regional university. Coming here and having the chance. Sonny Lubick, a guy out of Butte, Mont., had such a great career here and did such great things for this university. I look forward to working hand-in-hand with him and leading and gaining and pushing forward that tradition that he started.

“One of the things that happens sometimes is forgotten, Coach (Steve) Fairchild has done a wonderful job. He is a former player here and his staff worked tirelessly to help push this forward and actually build and put some stones in place. I will work with them as well as we move forward and in this new direction. I want to thank him and his staff for all that they have done to push this forward as well. We will visit with them. I know many of them personally and I know Steve (Fairchild) personally; he is a great person, a great human being and he has done a wonderful job here. I look at it as him passing me the baton a little bit as we move forward.

“As the vision goes, and there will be some questions in the near future, we put the calendar together and we need to hit the ground running. We need to get the word out about what our plans are and what are visions are. One of those plans and one of those visions are taking a culture and taking a mindset, and not being afraid to think big and within that process, not being afraid to be great. That is the direction that we need to head. So when we talk about the Ram nation and we talk to people throughout the United States of America that believe and are a  part of this great university, let’s make sure we go forward with the message, ‘We are Colorado State University and here we come.’ In this bold new era, I am really excited to lead. I am excited to see what direction we can take this. I am excited to see it because of the vision that these two gentlemen right here have (motions to Frank and Graham) and the commitment that they are willing to make. Let’s spruce up that yard, huh? Let’s plant some nice flowers. Let’s make sure that people take a look at it, then get them inside to see how great it really is. I really look forward to this challenge and I know we have a long way to go.

“I already met with the players. We had a great visit about the idea of dreaming, about being great, and what the process is going to take. Look, I am not going to be able to wave a magic wand; I wish I could. The history and the people I have been with, the great coaches I have been with – you know, Coach (Nick) Saban just coming from him and the help that he has had and seeing how he has built programs from the ground up, I think that is going to really help us change that culture and change that belief, and we are looking for all of those to be on board to move forward.

“Recruiting is a special and really, the biggest lifebone and backbone of what you have. We are going to have a great thing to sell. To start with, we need to make sure we keep our own at home. We are in Colorado. We need to make sure that every student-athlete that is viable and able to play at this Division I level, that we go out and make a commitment to them. And not make a commitment to them for this four-year period, but a commitment to them for the future. What I mean by that, is building a network in which those guys have a chance to go on and be successful once they leave. I think sometimes what universities do is you come for four years, you leave and you go and no one remembers you. They forget about you. The only thing they get is a phone call that says, ‘I need money.’ We have all been there. In fact, our outdoor barbeque right now is at the red turf at Eastern Washington University if anyone has seen it, by the way. But that is what I am trying to get at is, what can we do to help these guys in the future? That is what is going to give back. Our investment in their time here is only going to help us in the future and that’s what I look for.

“This is a long-term commitment. I am not looking here to bounce; I’m not looking for that. We were looking for a place that we really thought we could build that is fortunate to be in some other situations. This is one, because of the vision, because of the drive, because of the commitment and because of the bold new era, we are really excited to be a part of it. Guys, as I close right here, I just want to say, I hope I get the chance to meet each and every one of you. I want to look you in the eye; I want you to know how passionate I am and how passionate we are to make this a success. I look forward to doing it together. Guys, thanks so much. Go Rams, and let’s go make something big out of it. Thank you.”

On why he chose Colorado State: “It was simple once I was able to find the passion and the commitment from the top and the direction and vision in which they want to go. Being part of that team is where you want to be. It was one of those deals. Once you felt that, that energy, you felt where they wanted to go with the university and the football program. That’s what you want to be a part of and that’s what makes it so exciting.”

On why he chose Colorado State over Fresno State and Memphis: “Those are great places. They all have wonderful things to offer. I know this: I’m excited to be a Ram and that’s the one great thing about this place.”

On what he knows about the roster he is inheriting: “We’ve had an opportunity to actually speak with some guys that have played against them. I’ve combed through the media guide.  I have not had a chance to sit down and view any film yet but I do, obviously through the support of the coaches that are currently here, as well as coach (Steve) Fairchild, would like to sit down and visit with them and get an idea exactly where they are and what they feel the state (of the program) is.”

On the importance of his conversation with Sonny Lubick: “Probably the most important conversation I had. I’ve got nothing but great respect for Coach Lubick. He was the head coach at Montana State when I was coming out of high school. Our dads coached against each other in the great state of Montana. There’s a lot of lineage that goes along that way. He’s the one who really helped sell the vision as well. With that I just look forward to being part of his legacy.”

On his emphasis on recruiting Florida and Texas: “Well the first thing we need to talk about is the No. 1 thing in recruiting is geography. We need to take care of our own backyard. We’ve got to make sure that we don’t pass over people that go somewhere else. Now we need to know, where do we need to supplement that group from? Those are areas that have been successful here. I’ve got tons of recruiting ties; I’ve been recruiting in Florida for about 15 years. I’ve been down to Texas and obviously California as well. I think what we need to do is think of it as a regional approach first, then a supplemental approach second, then I’ll sit down with our recruiting people and see where they’ve had success. The biggest things that sell your program are the guys on your team, as long as we get them on board and they understand the vision. Now look, if they don’t want to be on board, so be it. We’re going in the direction where we want to be successful with everybody in. We’ll actually weigh on some of their expertise in those areas and rely on them for contacts.”

On if he has had the opportunity to discuss the future with any of the current coaching staff: “I haven’t yet. I really look forward to visiting with each and every one of them. I know they’ve got great qualities. I know a lot of them personally. Obviously this is a profession that is transit and you cross paths and some of them were here when I would come and sit in Sonny ’s office and watch VHS on the state of Colorado. Those things go a long ways. With that, each and every person stands on their own merit. They’ve done a great job here and it’s obviously a hard situation for everybody involved. I’m certainly going to sit down and visit with each and every one of them and we’ll go from there.”

On if Sonny Lubick will have any role with the team: “Yeah, he better get me a steak from his place. You know what I’m saying? I asked him about what was on the menu. I said, ‘Did you bring the menu from the M and M in downtown Butte (Mont.)?’ and he thought, ‘Yeah, that might be pretty good. Find out about that place.’ It should be on that Drive-ins, Diners and Dives. Obviously Sonny, just helping me in navigating the unknown, having experience in a guy who has experience, I’m going to lean heavily on him until he tells me to get the hell out of here.”

On what was the deciding factor in choosing Colorado State: “You want to take a look at them (points to Frank and Graham). There they are. What they have done and their passion for this place and their commitment to this place. I’ll tell you what, I’ve never talked with a president who is more proud of his faculty and more proud of all the people at this university that make it great. That’s what you want. You want to be associated to those with visions and those who care. When I hear them talk, when I hear about their vision and the inclusion of my family in that vision, that is really important to me.”

On what brand of football he brings to CSU: “The biggest thing is the evaluation of the roster. Sometimes you come in and try to throw your own brand in there and it doesn’t fit with what is there. Now the direction we need to go in recruiting to get there is very important. So I need to do a great job of evaluating what we have right now and it’s all about difference-makers. Who are the difference-makers on both sides of the ball, and making sure that we understand where those parts are and those guys being successful to help the components within.

“Now with that, when you look at my background, offensively, we threw it all over the park before I had gotten to Alabama. I tried to throw it all over the park the first spring there. There were some of these SEC guys that were rushing us; I learned we better do something other stuff. You understand what I’m getting at? And also we were built that way. So it’s a little bit skewed. I think we threw 17 passes in the fourth quarter this year. Going into the third quarter we probably threw it more than we ran it. No one understands that. We’re not ever going to be a team that just runs the score up on people.  Let’s make sure we have this thing won, now let’s go have a barbeque after the game on the back porch. Let’s get it over with, right?”

On whether he needs to spend time initially recruiting in Colorado to reintroduce himself: “I’m going to try. We’re going to set a schedule. I need to compile that list. I need to have a direction as to where we need to go right now. I’ll obviously be very visible in the state of Colorado. My goal over the years that I’m here is to make sure I’m in every single place. Now, the way the rules are now, they don’t let the head coach out in the spring, which is an unbelievable rule. So you don’t get the evaluation tool that you used to. So you’re limited. I need to get out and make sure I’m speaking at those clinics when they’re available and do those types of things so we can spread the CSU word.”

On whether he’ll be his own offensive coordinator at CSU: “I’ve been decently successful as a coordinator, so if it comes to that, I feel alright with it.”

On whether he knows who’ll be his other coordinators: “I think it’s natural as you go through coaching, you always have some guys that you trust and you know who have your back. I think that it is really important that they share your passion and vision for the program. And they are not, as soon as they take the job, on the phone trying to find the next one. I’ve seen that too much in this business. That’s not going to happen. We’re going to have guys that are committed to this place. We’re going to have guys that are committed to the university and understand the vision of both the president and the athletic director.”

On whether he sees Alabama being on CSU’s schedule: “I know there will be a heck of a guarantee.”

On expectations of early success: “My goal is to win them all, and that is the direction we need to go.”

On alumni relations and on-campus stadium: “One of the things I love to do is sell the vision and sell the passion. When I heard that the commitment was there to move forward with an on-campus facility, one that the university can be proud of and when the alumni come back and they walk the university campus and they go to the stadium, they’re there, they’re reliving memories. That is all about getting the money back. That is all about them getting that experience and that gameday experience. Being at schools that have on-campus facilities and being at schools that have not had on-campus facilities, I understand it; I get it. It is something I really look forward to seeing be developed and being a leader in charge. I wish I could go shake every CSU alumni hand and if I could do that, just to know that when they look me in the eye and when I look them in the eye, they understand the passion and commitment. ”

Athletic Director Jack Graham
On how the search firm helped him: “The process to screen candidates for this position was thorough and professional. We began by defining the state of CSU football; understanding the state of football. We defined a brand. What do we have to sell at Colorado State? We talked about the Mountain West Conference and what it takes to win championships in the Mountain West Conference. We talked about the characteristics of the head football coach that we wanted here, both the personal characteristics and qualities as well as technical characteristics and qualities, recruiting capabilities, etcetera. We defined that profile and said this is the kind of human being we want to have lead our football program in this bold new era. And with that, we started with a list of 75 to 100 names. We dragged a comb through that list, narrowed it down to about 25, kept on working and debating. (We) came up with a list of 10, set up appointments and we hit the road and started interviews. It was very thorough. We also had a guy sitting beside me who was a behavioral psychologist, a PhD, in behavior psychology. That helped me not just work on the back of gut and instinct and intuition, but rather objectively. What kind of a human being is this, how is he going to think, how is he going to lead, how is he going to manage? It was a very thorough process.”

On whether he interviewed all 10 candidates: “Nope. We had a list of 10.” 

On where McElwain ranked on that list of 10: “Right now he’s at the top of the list. I’m not going to answer that question because personnel and employee matters are confidential at Colorado State so I think I will just leave that one un- responded.”

On contract details of McElwain: “You guys always pick on the rookie, don’t you? We have signed a five-year contract with Coach McElwain. His base compensation is $1.35 million a year. He has an opportunity to make $150,000 in bonus based upon his graduation rate and keeping the program clean, no NCAA violations. So none of the bonus money is tied to wins; we’re going to win but we’re not going to pervert the process and cause him to do things to make more money. That is not the way we do things around here. As Coach McElwain said, he did not come here to bounce, he wants to drop anchor here, and consistent with that, there is a buy-out clause. If somebody else wants to come hire him away from us, it is going to cost them a lot of money to do so.”



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