Cristobal Looks To Be Tuscaloosa-Bound

mario cristobal miami hurricanes alabama crimson tideThe 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. 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 – the official blog for : The #1 Canes Shop Since 1959. Bello has joined up with and will be a guest columnist at this fall. Follow him on Twitter @ChristianRBello.



11 thoughts on “Cristobal Looks To Be Tuscaloosa-Bound

  1. Some coaches get a pass, and rightfully so, but I’m tired of Mario using U of M as a stepping stone. If he was looking for a bigger pond then don’t take a job here and just wait it out. Its unacceptable. I wouldn’t want this guy as my head coach if Golden were to leave.

  2. As 4 Cristobal being Golden’s replacement I say Heck no, I hope that doesnt happen! Golden has done a Wonderful job at the U while this whole NCAA mess has been going on. Im hoping we can keep Golden 4 a life long coach like FSU did with Bowden & VT is doing with Beamer, & Penn St. did with Ole Joe!

  3. Mario doesnt need to attach himself to Saban’s name. Mario’s name is already well known in the college world as one of the young up and coming coaches. What could he possibily learn under Saban except how to be an asshole

    Mario took FIU’s program which was on life support and turned them around. It was remarkable. The only difference between Bama and FIU is Mario will get his pick of 4 and 5 star recruits thats it!

    Stay in Miami Mario… Stay with a guy like Golden who has character and class! A guy who stands and faces adversity in the face and fights back. Thats Golden!

    1. Chris, look at where some of some other Nick Saban assistants have would up. Jimbo Fisher is running the show at Florida State and Will Muschamp is the guy at Florida.

      Saban may be an asshole, but he’s the best coach in the game. Saying anything contrary to that just makes you sound like either a jaded Dolphins fan or someone fed up with the SEC’s dominance. You don’t have to like Saban, but you can’t deny his results. Bama has been a monster program since 2008, a one loss season, and then winning titles three titles over the next four years, going for a threepeat this coming season.

      Mario may be “well known” but he was fired by FIU and took an assistant gig at Miami, meaning he has to work his way back up to head coaching candidate.

      Where does he have a better shot bolstering his resume? At Miami under Al Golden the next few years, or in Alabama under Saban and part of that machine.

      This isn’t about character. Golden runs circles around a scumbag like Saban. No contest.

      No, it’s about an up and coming coach learning some Xs and Os and how to run a football program, from a football standpoint. Saban has twenty years more experience than Golden – and four more rings.

      Golden is as classy as they come and in time, HE WILL BE A WINNER AT MIAMI. But sitting here in 2013, if you’re Mario Cristobal and you want to be a head coach again – where are you better off this coming season?

      Alabama. It’s a no-brainer and as much as Miami fans don’t want to deal with that, it’s the truth.

    2. Methinks Mario learned to be an ###hole all on his own. Evidently he’s been shopping himself around trying to get a foot in the door with any big-time program he could. Not blaming him for being ambitious, but he did use Al Golden’s generosity AND his alma mater in a way that doesn’t pass the smell test IMHO. It just always amazes me how some of these former Canes do absolutely NOTHING to help the university. They just use it.

      Fortunately, I think Al Golden is trying to recruit quality kids who have some loyalty to the school and the program. That is one thing that has been sorely lacking in the past.

  4. Nice summation of total BS. What does Cristobal’s decision have to say about loyalty and integrity to the young minds inadvertently being coached by him? That it’s OK to abandon the people and organization that you gave your word to? What about Coach Golden who was given an incredibly toxic position with out being informed of its toxicity? Did he at the first chance cut and run, when lesser men (read Mario Cristobal for one) would have left? When it comes to examples, I would choose for my young man Coach Golden’s loyalty. In the end even in the cut throat business of college football the mentors should be held accountable for their choices and how that choice imprints on our young minds. After all these young people are going to be the trend setters. As the UM ad says “The leaders of tomorrow”.

  5. I’m surprised you’re defending this decision so much. Where is the loyalty and where is the damn contract he signed? Are those worth anything anymore? One month in and someone else comes calling so he leaves? Why sign for UM then if he knew other suitors were around? I find it impossible to believe Bama came calling for him AFTER he signed with UM knowing he had a new job. Surely Cristobal had in his mind he may not be staying at UM because other offers were floating around so why did he sign for a month? I just don’t see a point in signing a contract with a big school and a big job for a month then leaving. It’s not like he was getting a little job at Target.. That just seems odd and irresponsible to me. But, hey, money talks, right?

  6. Mario is doing the right thing. College football is business, and this is a pure business decision. I wish him and his family nothing but the best and thank him for his service to UM. One never knows the curve balls life will throw at you and he may yet end up back at UM at some point in the future. In the mean time, he represents “The U” well.

    Notice how UM is quickly becoming a “coaching factory” much like an “NFL factory”?

    Go Canes!

    Jake in Yokosuka

  7. It is truly a shame that contracts are no longer worth the paper they’re written on. I can understand why Cristobal would want to go to Alabama.What bothers me is the lack of integrity so many of these guys (BTW Nick Saban exemplifies this) have where honoring their contracts is concerned.
    The players certainly can’t just ditch their commitment without having to sit out a year.I’d love to see a similar set of rules in place for coaches. Oh yeah, that would be interfering with their ability to earn a living. Silly me

  8. Regardless of the motives I think Miami and Mario have had their last dance. To take a job and leave it in a month, before a single fall practice has even happened, let alone a game…Saban may be “the best” but there is no reason to think you can’t move up the ladder with success at the U. Mario may be a “Cane for life” but I hope to never see him as a coach for my life. I don’t care if Mario becomes “the best”…on behalf of the Canes Family I would like to wish him the best…just not in Coral Gables ever again.

    Christian…you say we are building something great here in Miami but then argue that Mario had to leave so he could have bigger opportunities…as a Cane what could be bigger than trying to be a part of leading Miami back to a NC?

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