Career Path: Mario Cristobal is 27-47 in six years as a head coach at FIU but the record doesn’t tell the full story. Before Cristobal arrived FIU’s football program was in shambles. In two years he had them competitive and by year four he guided them to their first ever bowl game with a 7-6 record. In 2011 FIU followed that season with an 8-5 record, their best record ever. After being abruptly fired following a 3-9 season in 2012, Cristobal has been an offensive line coach under Nick Saban since.
Buzz Surrounding The Hire: It certainly would create some headlines in South Florida. Cristobal got a raw deal from Pete Garcia and was fired mainly because Garcia didn’t like him. Hiring a rival’s former coach would certainly stoke the flames of the Shula Bowl. Being that Cristobal pumped some life into what was a dead FIU football program, FAU fans will have strong feelings towards Cristobal one way or the other.
What’s There To Like: Cristobal has been a great recruiter no matter where he’s been whether that was Rutgers or FIU. He knows the South Florida area extremely well. There won’t be a drop off if in recruiting if he’s to be the next head coach. He’s also still young at 46 years old which athletic directors and school presidents tend to like.
What’s probably the biggest positive is that he was a pretty good coach at FIU as they haven’t had a winning season since letting him go. Their offenses were dynamic with T.Y. Hilton and Wesley Carroll and their defenses weren’t too bad either. The last two hires (Carl Pelini, Charlie Partridge) were learning on the job. With such a talented roster back next year that won’t be an issue under Cristobal, who should be able to win immediately.
Why They Should Proceed With Caution: Cristobal was one of the country's up-and-coming stars of college football coaches in 2011. Since then he hasn’t been rumored at any jobs. No one knows why but perhaps the people behind closed doors do. Also his defenses weren’t exactly the best as the coach of FIU in the Sun Belt.
Why He Would Take The Job: An opportunity to one-up your former boss at a rival school. That’s the opportunity Cristobal would have in front of him. Not to mention a second chance at revitalizing his once-bright head coaching career. Unlike the FIU job where he had to rebuild a program and start from the ground up, at FAU he will start with a much better foundation to prove how good a head coach he is with far better resources. Did I mention he has a chance to stick it to Pete Garcia?
Analysis: The job Cristobal did with FIU was remarkable. We know he can rebuild a program. We know he can recruit. After taking FIU to their only bowl appearances in back-to-back years I think it’s safe to say he can coach. FAU’s biggest problem under Partridge was in-game coaching. Given Cristobal’s experience at FIU and his time spent under Nick Saban over the past few years he would be an immediate upgrade.
FIU won the press conference when they hired Butch Davis and has generated a lot more buzz towards their program as a result. For the first time FIU administration actually cares about being good in football and with the staff being assembled by Davis it looks like that will certainly come to fruition (NCAA scandal or not). If you think that didn’t affect Partridge’s job security you’re kidding yourself. Hiring Cristobal would be the only way to one up that move.
There would be some stigma for hiring Cristobal since he used to coach at FIU but honestly I could care less. I want a proven head coach who’s hungry to make a name for himself. A guy who can win big, and win fast, and I think that’s Cristobal. On a scale of 1-10 this hire would be a 10.