No official confirmation just yet from either school, but we'll run the risk of becoming the Chicago Tribune and just somewhat prematurely call this one a done deal: Jim McElwain is leaving Alabama to be the next head coach at Colorado State. This has been reported by countless people and organizations in both Alabama and Colorado, and apparently at this stage Nick Saban is discussing the situation with the rest of the UA staff, as per Izzy Gould:
A source has confirmed Jim McElwain to Colordao State. The source said Nick Saban was meeting with staff members.
From the outset, this one comes as no real surprise to anyone who has remotely been paying attention, and as mentioned on RBR less than twenty-four hours ago it had become almost inevitable that McElwain's departure from Tuscaloosa was imminent. Given his serious flirtations with both Memphis and Fresno State in a matter of days, it was clear that his time was running short at Alabama.
As I've written in the past, on the whole any 'Bama follower has to be torn by McElwain's exit. On the one hand his offenses at Alabama have been prolific by Crimson Tide standards and for the most part 'Bama has routinely posted a lot of points on the scoreboard in the previous four seasons. Having said that, though, playcalling has been questionable at times throughout his tenure, quarterback play hasn't been as good as many hoped, recruiting at wide receiver has been a disaster, and as a result the offense has been increasingly tailback-centric with little more than a mirage of a passing game. Whether McElwain was to stay or to go, it remains clear that Alabama needs a serious upgrade in the passing game. A new face could possibly help bring about that end result, though obviously there are no guarantees.
As a corollary of that, the long-term impact of McElwain's departure expects to be minimal. With all due respect to what he has done in Tuscaloosa, Nick Saban has absorbed the loss of countless coordinators and other assistants during the past decade, and without exception to date those individuals have gone on to their own careers while Saban simply reloads the coaching staff without any real problems. It's possible that this turns out to be a big loss for 'Bama, of course, but the smart money is likely on Saban hiring someone else to run effectively the same scheme with effectively the same results.
The pressing question for Alabama fans will be how this affects the BCS National Championship Game. Will McElwain leave for Colorado State immediately, or will he stay through the bowl? If he leaves, who will call plays? If he stays, exactly how much of his time will be devoted to Alabama and how much will be devoted to Colorado State? You would have to think that he would probably stay for the championship game simply because of the publicity it would create for Colorado State, which could help tremendously with recruiting, but that is no given, and in the event that he leaves now it's really almost impossible to say at this point how Nick Saban and company would handle game preparation and in-game playcalling. We should find out more about this tomorrow at the planned press conference by Colorado State, but until then we have nothing but speculation. Either way, this one figures to be a distraction and thus will require increased focus and attention to detail from the rest of the staff and the players.