TUSCALOOSA | For Colorado State, Jim McElwain is bringing a new regime, but for the University of Alabama, he is still bringing stability.
In accepting the head coaching job at Colorado State, the Crimson Tide's offensive coordinator agreed to continue serving as UA's offensive coordinator through the BCS National Championship Game. And with that, a potential distraction for the Alabama team was averted.
"It doesn't affect preparation at all. Mac's going to be here," said UA coach Nick Saban. "I did this when I was the defensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns and got the head coaching job at Michigan State and coached the last three or four games in the regular season and two playoff games. The organization was good in supporting me in what I wanted to do, and we'll do the same thing for Jim."
Offensive lineman Barrett Jones said McElwain's continued presence through the team's final game carries a great importance.
"It means a lot. It doesn't surprise me at all," Jones said. "That's the kind of guy he is, he always has our backs."
Added senior receiver Brandon Gibson: "He told us we put him in the position to actually have that opportunity, so he gave back to us (by staying on through the final game)," Gibson said. "Now we're going to send him off, hopefully, with another national championship. I loved playing under him, and I wish him the best of luck."
On Monday, McElwain spoke to the players for the first time since accepting the CSU job, and things got a bit emotional.
"He did. It was kind of surprising that he did get emotional, because I've never seen him that way," Gibson said. "But when people are speaking from their heart, that's how it goes."
McElwain was hired last week for $1.35 million per year to coach the Rams, more than double his UA salary as an assistant coach. With his fourth season at UA nearly complete, he has a chance to pick up his second national title at UA if the Crimson Tide beats LSU Jan. 9. His offense ranks No. 3 in the Southeastern Conference in scoring at 36 points per game, and No. 2 in yardage at 433.4 yards per game.
"We're happy for him. He's done a great job here for us, in a lot of different ways. I think the players are very happy for him," Saban said. "I think he's the kind of guy that has a lot of pride in what he does and I don't think there's going to be any issues or problems in his commitment to what we're doing for our team and this game."
As for McElwain's replacement, Saban said he plans to keep focused on the BCS title game for now, and added that choosing the right coach for the role takes time.
"I don't think you can recruit, get ready for a game, practice for a game and try to be interviewing people at the same time," Saban added. "Something's going to get sort of left out. First of all, I'd like to see who's interested and who's available out there and kind of go from there, but our focus right now is the game."
Reach Chase Goodbread at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0196.