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Pope: Tony Frank playing with fire in McElwain buyout

Colorado State University president Tony Frank is toeing a very fine line in the talks regarding head football coach Jim McElwain’s $7.5 million buyout.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, the discussions surrounding McElwain leaving CSU for the University of Florida have hit a snag as CSU “won’t budge” on the coach’s buyout. Despite being one of the most well-funded athletic departments in the entire country, paying McElwain $7.5 million, along with the more than $8 million they reportedly owe former head coach Will Muschamp and his staff may be out of reach of what Florida is willing to pay for a head coach who has yet to win a division or league championship.

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So what if McElwain actually ends up staying in Fort Collins? Well, CSU is likely worse off than if he left in the first place. Sure, CSU gets to hold onto their head coach. But do they really want someone who was all but headed for Gainesville only to have his buyout ruin his chance to coach in the best conference in college football? McElwain may stay around, but he surely won’t be thrilled about it. And what about the players?

How does CSU expect its players to be motivated by a coach who is only staying because his contract requires him to. Players who committed fully to McElwain and his program now know that their coach isn’t fully committed to them.

It’s a tough predicament for Frank, who doesn’t want to back down on the buyout he worked so hard to put in place, but he must also understand that he doesn’t want a disgruntled coach on his hands. There seems to be no right answer, unless Florida agrees to pay the full amount of the buyout. And even then, CSU must hire a new head coach in the middle of one of the biggest recruiting months of the entire year without an athletic director in place. Not to mention the fact that Frank’s meeting with the University’s Board of Governors regarding the future of CSU’s on-campus football stadium project.

For now, Dr. Frank will continue playing with fire. For his sake, he better hope he doesn’t end up burned.

Collegian Sports Editor Keegan Pope can be reached at kpope@collegian.com and on Twitter @ByKeeganPope. 

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