Digging Deeper into Mario Cristobal's tenure at FIU

Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

Hello fellow Oregon fans, my name is Cyrus. I am the Managing Editor for Underdog Dynasty at SB Nation. Over at UDD we are dedicated to covering G5 conferences such as the AAC, Conference USA, and Sun Belt.

As an FAU alum (Get on the Lane Train!) and a huge Oregon fan (I've had a few fan posts on here before explaining my love for Oregon), I feel like I have a unique perspective on the Cristobal hire compared to other Oregon fans due to knowledge of the FIU program before, during, and after Cristobal's tenure (when the FAU job opened last year I thought he should be considered to be FAU's next head coach and I wrote a story on the pros and cons of him getting the job).

In case you haven't heard, Cristobal went 27-47 in 6 years at FIU. Before Cristobal arrived at FIU, the Panthers were primarily known for their brawl with Miami. Now, they are known for producing T.Y. Hilton. He was 36 when he got the job and a rising star in coaching circles. Those FIU teams ran a spread offense, and had a pocket-passer in Wesley Carrol and a burner in Hilton. Defensively they were fast, but nothing special.

From speaking with FIU fans, they generally regard Cristobal as an overrated coach who was a great recruiter. From their perspective, he got in the way of his coordinators too often and that ultimately stunted his growth. He was surprisingly fired for going 3-9, a year after winning a school record eight games.

Athletic Director Pete Garcia and Cristobal had a power struggle behind the scenes. Pretty much Garcia didn't like the fact that Cristobal was getting a ton of credit for reviving the football program. Cristobal wanted more commitment from administration as far as an improvement in facilities and marketing the program, but Garcia didn't want to do those things.

Garcia was actively trying to push Cristobal away following his 8-5 season and was disappointed when Cristobal decided to return after turning down the Rutgers job. Cristobal gave him the ammo for firing him after a disappointing season in which they were picked to finish near the top of the Sun Belt and Garcia took advantage of it.

Garcia wanted to bring along his close friend Butch Davis to replace him, but instead ended up with Ron Turner. Turner went 10-30 in 3+ years at FIU. He was terrible, but worst of all, he was abysmal on the recruiting trail. This year, five years after FIU got rid of Cristobal, the Panthers are finally decent again as Garcia finally convinced Butch Davis to take the job. FIU is 8-4, and one win away from matching Cristobal's best season in 2011. Despite hiring Davis, Garcia is still one of the worst athletic directors in college football.

Under Cristobal FIU had one of the worst, and still has one of the worst facilities in the FBS. From an FAU fan, his stint was a huge success. FIU was terrible before him, and really started to become a threat with him at the helm. He should be revered a lot more by FIU fans, but to many they see Cristobal as an underachiever.

I think it's fair to wonder why Cristobal was never considered for any other head coaching jobs though. He was prematurely fired by FIU, and their demise after him proved that they got it wrong, but it's odd that Cristobal never got any buzz for G5 jobs in Florida when he was at Alabama. The only explanation I have is that behind the scenes he was too difficult to deal with. The fact Garcia and Cristobal didn't get along may have scared other AD's from pursing him.

Garcia being a terrible AD has ultimately made Cristobal's tenure a huge success. The program will only play in three bowls after this season and Cristobal is responsible for two of them. With complete support from administration, a ton of resources, and 6 years under Saban, I think Cristobal is going to do a great job.

Thoughts on the hire and Taggart's decision to leave...

  • I thought Kevin Sumlin should have got the job though. He has proved that he can recruit at a top-15 level and is one of A&M's best head coaches of all-time. I'm not buying that he underachieved in College Station. A&M is a tough job with ridiculous expectations. His biggest issue was winning so fast and making Aggie fans believe they were capable of something much more. Despite its history, A&M is a high-profile job and I doubt Sumlin would have left Oregon for another college job.

  • I don't think Cristobal's promotion is a bad idea. If he has learned from his time at FIU and lets his coordinators do their job he'll do well. Recruiting won't be an issue under him that's for sure. Worst case is that he leaves the next guy with a talented roster that underachieved with him as the head coach. His ceiling is higher than Leavitt's so I'm glad he got the nod. If Leavitt leaves though, it's going to be interesting to see who his DC hire is.

  • Being that Cristobal is a Miami alum, when Mark Richt retires we could be going through the same ordeal again where a Florida school takes our head coach.

  • Not buying that the hire should have been made for continuity sake. No matter who the HC was going to be, the bar for a successful 2018 season was going to be 9-3. The roster is too talented and the schedule is too easy for anything worse. I hope Cristobal got the job because of his potential, not because he can save this class.

  • Blaming Mullens for the Taggart ordeal is silly and any calls for his head based on his hires are absurd. We lost Taggart to his dream school. The buyout may have been shortsighted, but no one could have foreseen the FSU job coming open this year. We just had bad luck due to timing. Also, have you seen how successful Oregon's athletic department has been? From softball, to basketball, Oregon's been terrific. This is a crucial hire though.

  • Don't overreact to the Vegas Bowl win or lose. Houston promoted Major Applewhite to HC for the Vegas Bowl last year and they were whipped by San Diego State. The Coogs had a pretty decent season this year and could win 8 games with a win over Fresno in the Hawaii Bowl.

  • Oregon is a 2nd tier job, a cut below the blue bloods (Tennessee is a solid comparison imo). You can recruit at a top-5 level, and the road to the CFP isn't too difficult. Location will always make this a 2nd tier job though.

  • I don't hate Taggart for choosing FSU. That was always going to be a possibility throughout his tenure. I just hate that he left after 1 year.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of SB Nation or the Addicted To Quack Moderators. FanPost opinions are valued expressions of opinion by passionate and knowledgeable Oregon fans.