Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley decided he wanted Colorado State coach Jim McElwain as Will Mushcamp’s replacement.

McElwain presented as a great candidate — a Nick Saban disciple with a proven offensive mind who is good at recruiting, good with the media and turned around a lagging CSU program at hyper speed.

Only a giant inconvenience stands in the way: Foley’s $7.5 million buyout.

Armed with little more than ruthless negotiating skills (and the gesture of a potential CSU vs. UF game), Foley aims to take advantage of Colorado State university president Tony Frank and strip millions off the price.

The Coloradoan reported Wednesday that UF is seeking to knock $4.5 million off that buyout, though the Orlando Sentinel cited a source that seemed much less optimistic.

“… there is substantially less wiggle room in reducing the buyout than some media have implied,” the Sentinel reported.

If CSU doesn’t reduce the price, Florida would owe $15.5 million before even sitting down with McElwain to negotiate his Gators contract — $8 million for buying out Muschamp and his assistants and $7.5 million for buying out the CSU contract. But Foley, who started as a ticket office intern at Florida and now is the chief financial officer of the lucrative University of Florida Athletic Association, hopped on a plane with every intention of securing McElwain, and at a reasonable rate.

Read between the lines and reports emanating from Fort Collins, Colo., depict a hardened negotiator trying to put the screws to a potential pushover in Frank.

The Florida contingent flew back to the Sunshine State on Wednesday afternoon with the announcement of McElwain as the new coach seemingly imminent, though it’s unclear whether the two sides have settled the buyout.

McElwain took the Rams from 3-9 to 8-6 in two years, earning a minor pay raise ($150k per year) in exchange for several escalators, including one that would allow him to get paid upwards of $2.5 million annually by making a New Year’s Six bowl, which CSU came close to doing in 2014. The Rams were offering job security and the opportunity for McElwain to claim a large percentage of his theoretical earnings at a power conference program.

In exchange, Frank and then-athletic director Jack Graham wanted to tag him with a large buyout clause, or five times his current salary of $1.5 million.

Graham, a hard-charging business mind who owned a catastrophic insurance company, got the athletic director post by impressing Frank with his initiative and plan to lead a stadium fundraising drive. Fired in August, after McElwain signed a new contract, it seems his philosophy clashed with that of Frank.

Frank acted “irresponsible” in negotiations with McElwain and his agent, Graham told The Coloradoan, in guaranteeing $15 million in 10 years without an iron-clad, substantial buyout.

“Unfortunately in the meeting back in June during which Mac, Tony Frank and I were to sign Mac’s employment agreement, Tony agreed to reduce if not eliminate the breakup fee if a ‘dream job’ were to come along,” Graham said Tuesday. “Mac’s attorney asked me a number of times if we would carve out Alabama and other top head football coaching jobs from the breakup fee, and I declined to do so.

“I reminded his attorney that the whole purpose of the new employment agreement was to give Mac an opportunity to make a lot of money based on his performance and to give him real security in the form of a 10-year agreement. In exchange, Mac had to agree to a break-up fee that would make it very difficult for him to leave CSU for any other university. I felt it was essential that we do all we could to reduce or eliminate that risk.

“Too often coaches have treated CSU like a stepping stone. The self-esteem issues that creates are very real, and I wanted that to go away. I believed it was essential to our future.”

With the more cut-throat business mind out of the way, which Foley surely recognized, Florida may have figured it could fleece CSU in negotiations despite a lack of leverage.

That’s exactly what will happen if the buyout indeed gets cut by more than half.

Frank let McElwain’s agent –Rick Landrum — insert a clause allowing the buyout to be negotiated due to extenuating circumstances. It stood to reason, then, that with the right amount of pressure — which Foley surely has applied — Frank may allow CSU to get taken for millions.

Granted, $7.5 million is a huge buyout clause. But CSU has no reason to reduce it other than to be good guys. There’s hardly room for that in what’s become one of the most lucrative industries in the United States in major college athletics.

Somehow Foley wants Frank to agree to refund Florida millions just because McElwain deserves it. Maybe Foley was able to guilt CSU into the deal, posturing that they wouldn’t want to come between McElwain and his dream of coaching at a big-time SEC program.

Paparazzi-style photos taken outside of McElwain’s Fort Collins home on Tuesday evening didn’t seem to show the coach and the Gators AD tying up Frank and holding him hostage in the basement. Other than floating the potential of a game between the two programs, Foley had no real leverage.

But Frank seemingly presented an easy target to UF.

We’ll find out soon if Frank toughened up at the table or whether Foley got the upper hand.