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Colorado State signs Jim McElwain through 2018

Colorado State has announced that head football coach Jim McElwain has received a contract extension that will run through the 2018 football season.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the changes made in the athletic department at Colorado State with the firing of athletic director Jack Graham last week, the school has announced a contract extension for head football coach Jim McElwain. The contract extension will keep McElwain at Colorado State through the 2018 season and raises his base salary from $1.35 million a year up to $1.5 million a year. In an effort to keep McElwain from leaving the program, his new contract also includes an initial buy out price of $7.5 million.

With the major changes going on within the Colorado State athletic department and the uncertainty of the new on-campus stadium, this is good news for Ram fans as it shows the school is committed to building on the success that McElwain has brought to the program, as well as bringing some stability to the football program. Here is the official press release from the Colorado State athletic department.

FORT COLLINS, Colo. - Colorado State University and head football coach Jim McElwain have finalized a new contract that will keep the third-year head coach in Fort Collins at least through the 2019 season, interim athletic director John Morris announced on Monday.

McElwain guided the Rams' football program in 2013 to its most wins in a single season since 2002, including a victory in the New Mexico Bowl. His team's 8-6 record marked an improvement for the second year in a row after taking over a program that had posted 3-9 records for three consecutive seasons before his arrival.

"Jim McElwain has breathed new life into our football program," Morris said. "Last season's exhilarating come-from-behind victory in the New Mexico Bowl illustrated all of the positive attributes McElwain and his staff have infused in their student-athletes?the perseverance to never give up and the unique bond to support one another on every play. That was a moment that all Rams fans are extremely proud of, and it provided a glimpse of where this program is headed."

McElwain's initial five-year contract, signed upon his hire in December 2011, included base salaries of $1.35 million with the potential to earn a bonus of $150,000 related his team's Academic Progress Rate (APR) score. His new five-year contract increases his base salary to $1.5 million with the same bonus structure. Those bonuses are contingent upon having no major NCAA violations. It also includes optional extensions for up to five seasons beyond the initial term of the contract.

"We are excited that Jim McElwain will be our football coach for the long term," Morris added. "All current and future Rams can point to the stability and consistency in the football program as a cornerstone for the bright future of Colorado State Athletics."

McElwain was equally appreciative of the opportunity he now has to continue his revitalization of the Rams' football program for the long term.

"I'm thankful for the opportunity to be the head football coach at Colorado State University, and I appreciate that Dr. Frank has trusted us, our family, our coaches to take this program and keep growing it," McElwain said. "My family and I sincerely appreciate the way the people of Fort Collins and the state of Colorado, and all of the great Rams fans, have welcomed us and made this home for us."

McElwain's new contract also includes substantial increases in the amount he would have to pay CSU if he leaves before his contract is up. This includes an initial buyout of $7.5 million, and possible future buyouts of $7.5 million or more as long as he would have five years remaining on his contract, depending upon possible extensions and/or increases in his base pay.

"With the leadership of Tony Frank and the Board of Governors we have great support and commitment at Colorado State," McElwain added. "It is my privilege to work on their behalf, and on behalf of all of the student-athletes and coaches in our program to produce the kind of results that will make all Rams fans proud," McElwain added. "The word is out that great things are happening in Fort Collins, and we will continue to work hard to build the program to the heights we, our fans and alumni expect."

The Rams under McElwain in 2013 made tremendous gains just two years after he took the reins of the program and transformed the mindset, approach and identity of the program. CSU broke school records for total offense per game, touchdowns per game and scoring, while individual records were set or tied for single-season rushing yards, passing yards, rushing touchdowns and passing touchdowns.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Rams claimed a Mountain West Player of the Year Award for the first time since 2002, with the performance of senior linebacker Shaquil Barrett. Four players from last year's team are on NFL rosters, including two players chosen in the top 100 selections of the 2014 NFL Draft, Weston Richburg (No. 43, New York Giants) and Crockett Gillmore (No. 99, Baltimore Ravens).

McElwain has elevated the program toward heights not seen in Fort Collins since legendary coach Sonny Lubick led the Rams to nine bowl games and six conference titles in his 15-year tenure from 1993-2007. The Rams' eight wins in 2013 were the most since Lubick's 2002 squad went 10-4 and captured the program's most recent Mountain West Conference championship. Other indicators include two players?Richburg and Gillmore?becoming the Rams' first players selected to play in the 2014 Senior Bowl since Joel Dreessen in 2005, and just the 12th and 13th selected for that honor in program history.

The discipline McElwain has instilled, of focusing on each play regardless of circumstance and score in a game, was on full display in the New Mexico Bowl win, in which the Rams overcame a 22-point second-quarter deficit to win Colorado State's first bowl game since 2008. Still trailing 45-30 late in the game, McElwain's team scored 18 points in the final 2:52 to claim the win. The Rams forced turnovers on defense and special teams and efficiently ran their hurry-up offense with poise to set up the winning field goal, kicked as time expired.

The marks of his leadership and the energy and optimism he has generated around the program have fans more enthusiastic about the team than they have been in more than a decade. Not only has McElwain immersed himself in the Fort Collins community and brought the program back to the fans, he has traveled to all corners of the state of Colorado in both recruiting and through the system of satellite youth football camps he and his staff have conducted the past two summers.

Colorado State began preseason camp on Monday, Aug. 4, and the season-opening Rocky Mountain Showdown against Colorado is set for Friday, Aug. 29, at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver.

Rams season tickets are on sale now. A full season package starts as low as $130 and includes a ticket to the Rocky Mountain Showdown and all six home games at Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium. Individual tickets and mini-plan packages that include the Rocky Mountain Showdown and two other games are also on sale. All tickets can be purchased by calling 800-491-7267 or online here.