Jim McElwain: On red turf, cheap hotels and more
Even with 2,000 words, I didn't have enough space to share everything I wanted on Jim McElwain's time in the Big Sky Conference. The story posted online this morning and will be in Sunday's Tampa Bay Times. A few things that didn't make the final cut:
· I mentioned that McElwain donated some money to 2010 fundraiser for new red turf at Eastern Washington. Here's what I didn't include: "Don't sit here and say that I'm excited about the red turf," McElwain said. He hates the red. He's a football purist. But... "If they took a step to do that, it would be really hard for them to drop football." So that's why he gave money for The Inferno.
· Recruiting trips were much different back then, in the pre-Hudl world. McElwain and four other Eastern Washington coaches would pile in a van and drive the four hours west to Seattle. They'd stop in suburban Kirkland, where a friend of the program would loan them four cars off his lot for the week.
McElwain spent the day crisscrossing the area, collecting film from high school coaches. He and his colleagues would meet up at their hotel (often a La Quinta Inn, assuming it was cheap enough), evaluate recruits' film and drop them off the next day.
· One reason why McElwain stayed at Eastern Washington, despite all the challenges he faced there: The staff was sharp, and close. "You're stuck in a motel room over in Seattle for a week on end with five guys in a room - you'd better learn to get along," said one of his then-colleagues, Jerry Graybeal.
It helped that the assistants were up-and-comers, like him. Three from the 1992 staff became Division I-AA head coaches, not including McElwain. They spent time together in basketball rec leagues, bowling leagues, darts...you name it.
"We'd go raise hell, coach football and then raise hell again," said one of his then-colleagues, J.D. Sollars.
· When McElwain brought up the 1990 game against Houston, I didn't know a thing about it. He mentioned it was bad. They lost something like 84-21. I looked it up I got home. Sure enough: 84-21. How coaches can remember the final score of a blowout from 27 years ago is beyond me.
· The origin for this story, not surprisingly, came because of my fascination with coaches sleeping in Jim McElwain's garage. That sounds even weirder, now that I type it out. Anyway, I shared the story with Graybeal, now an associate athletic director at Weber State. His response: "That's the Eastern way, man."