McElwain grabbing attention but Ohio team to beat in MAC
DETROIT (AP) — Jim McElwain was enjoying his life and career, working in relative obscurity as Jim Harbaugh’s receivers coach.
The former Florida coach didn’t plan for his gig at Michigan to last less than a year.
Central Michigan, though, offered McElwain another chance to lead a college football team and he took it.
“This wasn’t something I was looking to do,” McElwain insisted Tuesday at the Mid-American Conference’s football media day. “I really like the vision and direction of the school.”
Central Michigan won only one game last season under fired coach John Bonamego, who led the program to bowl games the previous three years. McElwain was fired late in the 2017 season at Florida with a 22-12 record over two-plus seasons.
McElwain is one of four coaches making his MAC debut this season along with Thomas Hammock at Northern Illinois, Bowling Green’s Scot Loeffler and Tom Arth at Akron.
Frank Solich, entering his 15th year at Ohio, is at the other end of the experience spectrum in the conference. The former Nebraska coach is expected to have the team to beat.
The Solich-led Bobcats are the favorites to win the MAC championship, receiving 24 first-place votes at media day. Toledo was picked to win the West Division, getting 15 first-place votes.
Solich has won 106 games at Ohio since 2005 and is five wins away breaking the MAC’s coach record for victories set by Herb Deromedi from 1978-1993 at Central Michigan.
The MAC’s quartet of first-year coaches has a long way to go to catch Solich.
Hammock, who previously coached running backs for the Baltimore Ravens, seems to have the best chance to win right away.
The former Huskies running back and assistant coach is leading the defending MAC champions and a program with only one losing season in 10 years. Hammock replaces Rod Carey, who left for Temple after leading the school to a 52-30 record and six bowl games in seven seasons.
“These men won a championship last season and they expect another championship,” he said.
Loeffler is also getting his first opportunity to be a head coach. Unlike Hammock, he is taking over a program that has fallen on hard times. The Falcons averaged just three wins the previous three seasons and Loeffler is their fifth coach in five seasons.
“We’re just trying to get back to the standards Bowling Green has had and will have again,” Loeffler said.
Arth is moving up the coaching ladder after leading Chattanooga and John Carroll. He is succeeding Terry Bowden, who was fired with a 35-52 record over seven seasons.
“It means a lot to me to have an opportunity to bring my family to a special place that is just 30 minutes away from where I grew up,” said Arth, who is from Westlake, Ohio. “I understand how much success of the football team means to Akron and Northeast Ohio and I’m very motivated to help establish a successful program.”