Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain has emerged as one of two clear finalists for the Fresno State head coaching job, according to the Fresno Bee. Fresno fired coach Pat Hill last Saturday after the program suffered declining fan support and falling revenues.
The Bee reports that school administrators interviewed McElwain and Oakland Raiders assistant Kelly Skipper during meetings held Friday in Dallas, citing sources close to the search.
Both men have ties to the Bulldog program. McElwain served one year as the offensive coordinator there before leaving to join Nick Saban’s Alabama staff after the 2007 season, where he developed a consistent, relentless attack that helped the Tide reach two BCS Championship Games in three seasons.
Kelly is a former player for Fresno State and had an eight year stint as an assistant coach from 1991-1997. He’s been in the NFL for five years as a Raiders offensive assistant.
Regardless of which finalist is announced—likely this week—he faces a formidable task in rebuilding the former “giant killer.” Hill had developed a program of notoriety for playing “anyone, anywhere.” The pinnacle was reached with a 2001 season that saw the Bulldogs knock off three members of BCS AQ conferences and rise to a No. 8 ranking. But over the last half-decade, a decline in on-the-field performance has translated into deflating fan and community support.
Athletic Director Thomas Boeh as seen a more than 40% drop in season ticket sales and ticket revenues drop 25%. For even an established mid-major program like Fresno State, such precipitous declines in revenue can have dire consequences. There is less money to dedicate to facilities development, staff salaries and the most important of all—the recruiting budget. Already at a recruiting disadvantage against west coast giants USC, Oregon and UCLA, every dollar spent in luring quality prospects to sign with the smaller school is precious.
Jim McElwain has a stellar résumé as an offensive coordinator. But one of his best contributions to the Alabama program has been his tireless and successful recruiting efforts.
When Fresno State nearly knocked off then No. 1 USC in 2005, the Bulldogs program appeared to be on the rise and Hill’s name was mentioned for several coaching vacancies. At that time, the job would have been a lucrative position for an ambitious young coordinator eager to make his mark and develop a head coaching résumé. Amid declining revenues and fading fan support, it seems far less so in 2011. The next Fresno State coach has a lot of work ahead of him.