Florida appears to have zeroed in on Colorado State's Jim McElwain. I wrote about his favorite status literally an hour ago, and ESPN's Brett McMurphy has all but confirmed it, with Only Gators additionally reporting that a Florida booster's plane used by the UAA is en route to Fort Collins, Colorado, home of Colorado State.
The one major stumbling block that the world can see for the Gators, if they're set on hiring McElwain, is the buyout clause in his contract with Colorado State, newly extended in August, which calls for him to pay $7.5 million or the remainder of his salary for the term of his contract, whichever is greater, if he leaves. Here's his contract, via The Coloradoan; the relevant section appears on page 10.
Clearly, Florida hiring McElwain means someone would be on the hook for $7.5 million, and maybe a bit more ... except for that "extenuating circumstances" bit.
Colorado State would absolutely want to get as close to its full due as possible, I imagine, and $7.5 million is a huge sum for a program outside the Power Five, likely more than enough to run several programs beyond football or make signficant capital improvements. But Florida has one of the largest coffers in all of college athletics, routinely raking in revenues of more than $100 million.
And while Jeremy Foley has a reputation for fiduciary discretion — which has led to slow, steady building of facilities rather than massive capital improvements, or participation in what a leery Foley referred to as an "arms race" to build shiny new buildings for football programs — he and the Gators can probably afford to make pretty much any number work for the right coach, especially with booster support, which always tends to swell around a new hire.
Besides, while hiring McElwain probably won't happen unless he gets a substantial raise on his $1.5 million per year salary with Colorado State, we already have an indication that Florida is willing to fork over at least $4.2 to $4.5 million a year for a coach, in addition to covering whatever it already owes the bought-out Will Muschamp: That was the Gators' range for an their offer to Hugh Freeze, per what Steven Godfrey reported late Monday.
What if Florida offered McElwain north of $3 million and covered his buyout? That would function as the same $4.5 million per year it would have paid Freeze. What if Florida went above $3 million to McElwain, but also worked out a creative means of defraying the buyout with Colorado State, like with a guarantee game in Gainesville?
Furthermore, there's cachet in having Florida poach a program's coach. Florida's hired four football coaches in the last 25 years, and two of them won national titles, with a third reaching a BCS bowl; if McElwain is hired, Colorado State — which, to be clear, probably realizes its station as a stepping stone outside the Power Five structure — can point to that tremendous leap as a possibility for the next guy, a powerful lure for hard-charging coaches on the rise.
Perhaps most importantly, though, concerns about Florida's capacity for spending on its next coach are concerns about how Jeremy Foley spends his money, and amount to little more than concern trolling. Yes, higher price tags for any given coach make the success of any given hiring more critical, but Foley and others know that the right hire, at whatever price, will almost assuredly pay off more handsomely than cheaping on a lesser coach — something, it should be noted, that some believe Foley and the UAA did by hiring Muschamp, rather than a more experienced and expensive coach.
If you're worried about how Florida is spending its money, well, good for you, but a) Foley and the UAA know their financial situation inside and out in a way that the average fan on Twitter decidedly does not, and b) that money's gonna get spent on something.
If Foley and the UAA think McElwain's the right thing to spend it on, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.