The deal hasn’t been inked as of yet, but before the day is out it is expected that Mario Cristobal will leave Coral Gables for Tuscaloosa, taking the same position with the Crimson Tide that he held with the Hurricanes for the past month – offensive line coach with some padding in the form of assistant head coach, recruiting duties, et al.
CBSSports.com is reporting that Cristobal is in Tuscaloosa today for a second round of interviews. Besides what’s being reported elsewhere as a huge bump in salary (upwards of triple what he’s earning at UM, after bonuses and incentives), the ability to learn from the legendary Nick Saban and his staff, as well as having input on Alabama game planning, could be too much to pass up.
Lest not forget, Cristobal left Miami in 2007 to take over as head coach at Florida International, where he spent the past six seasons leading the Golden Panthers before his questionable firing.
Al Golden added Cristobal to his staff on January 10th and just over a month later, it looks like Cristobal is headed to Alabama, for no reason other than to continue his journey back to that of head coach.
For those fans who will undoubtedly cry “traitor”, or worse, at least attempt an ounce of logic before the knee-jerk reactions begin to fly.
The coaching game is a stepping stone business and this is simply another casualty for Miami, should Cristobal choose Alabama, as is expected. (Let’s be honest, it will take some true creativity on Golden and UM’s part to sell Mario on why he should stay.)
Months back Miami receivers coach George McDonald accepted the same position at Arkansas, as it was a step up; more money, SEC football, etc. Within a week, Syracuse came calling and offered him the offensive coordinator position and before the moving truck unloaded in Fayetteville, it was New York-bound.
Soon thereafter the NFL came calling and Miami offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch landed the same job with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Promising as the Canes’ offense looks in 2013, for Fisch, more impressive on the resume is “NFL offensive coordinator”, so he too made the tough decision and hit the road.
Fisch’s departure opened the door for James Coley to come to Miami – which proved to be the Canes’ gain and the Seminoles’ loss. The offensive coordinator at Florida State, Coley didn’t have play-calling duties, which head coach Jimbo Fisher chose to hoard.
FSU matched UM’s offer to Coley, but without turning over play-calling duties to an up-and-coming coach trying to build his resume, Miami became the no-brainer choice and the Canes poached the Noles top recruiter.
Cristobal to Alabama looks to be another no-brainer opportunity for a coach on the rise. As much love as Mario has for his alma mater, he has more love for his chosen profession and advancing forward.
Miami is building a special staff and the Canes are a program on the rise. Unfortunately, Alabama is the team everyone else aspires to be and Saban is the best coach in the game. Where UM is working to get, Bama is already there … and then some, right now.
Faulting Cristobal for hitting the road is immature, unrealistic and just plain idiotic. This has nothing to do with his “Cane For Life” status and everything to do with his path back to the elite circle of head coaches.
Cristobal is a University of Miami alumni and a graduate of Christopher Columbus High. He is a hometown kid that earned two rings playing for The U and after a two-year stint playing Canadian football, returned to UM and spent three years as a graduate assistant under Butch Davis.
Davis protege Greg Schiano earned the Rutgers head coaching gig and having spent two years working with Cristobal, immediately added him to the Scarlet Knights staff, coaching up the offensive line and tight ends.
When Miami had a spot for Mario, he ran back home and took the same position with his alma mater, where he stayed the next three seasons until FIU called with an offer an up-and-comer couldn’t refuse; the title of head coach, in his hometown, no less.
Does anyone here really believe that Cristobal and his wife Jessica want to leave the confines of South Florida for the slow rural life one finds in Tuscaloosa?
Jessica Cristobal is the founder of the Leading Ladies League, a women’s-based, non-profit organization that partners with other non-profits who serve the needs of women and children in the community by offering their time, talent, resources and mentorship, and yes, while LLL has presence in Atlanta, which is only a few hours east on I-20 from Tuscaloosa, Jessica has called Miami home since 2001 and has raised a family in South Florida since 2006 with Mario.
This will not be an easy move, or an optimum one for this family – but the risk far outweighs the reward, and any Miami fan refusing to admit that has their head in the sand.
Having “Alabama Offensive Line Coach / Assistant Head Coach” as well as “Saban Protege” on your resume as a head coach – that is part of a coaching tree and coaching family to be from.
In the tech world, this is akin to having “Apple” or “Google” on your resume. If you’re a stockbroker, it means leaving home for Wall Street and taking a gig with Merrill Lynch, E.F. Hutton or Paine Webber.
Even if it hurts and it’s not something you necessarily want to do – you have you. Your career depends on moments of advancement such as this and by choosing said profession this is what you signed up for. Welcome to the game.
When the big boys call, you answer the phone and when the offer, you most-likely take – unless possessing some one-in-a-million reason not to.
Despite what some jaded fans feel today, the door is always open at Miami and we never know where things will go.
Some have pegged Cristobal to be Golden’s replacement somewhere down the road. Should that be the case, where would you rather him do his learning these next few years — Tuscaloosa under Saban or in Miami under Golden, still underneath the cloud of this NCAA investigation and rebuilding, while the Crimson Tide will go for their third ring in four seasons this fall?
Best of luck, Mario. Whatever you choose – for you – will be the right choice.
Christian Bello has been covering Miami Hurricanes athletics since the mid-1990s. After spending almost a decade as a columnist for CanesTime, he launched allCanesBlog.com. – the official blog for allCanes.com : The #1 Canes Shop Since 1959. Bello has joined up with XOFan.com and will be a guest columnist at CaneInsider.com this fall. Follow him on Twitter @ChristianRBello.