It felt like October at the Hecht Athletic Complex on Friday. No, Al Golden wasn't dressed up as an M&M for Halloween. However, with Mario Cristobal returning home to the University of Miami, it sure felt like homecoming. "It has always been an honor to be a part of this family and certainly a tremendous honor to be back," said Cristobal who returns to the U after a 5-year hiatus from the program. During his time away from Coral Gables, he was the top gun of a Florida International University football program that went from being the doormat of the NCAA to consecutive bowl wins in the past two years. Now as an Associate Head Coach, Cristobal will take charge of the tight end corps (much to the delight of newcomer Beau Sandland) and assist Head Coach Al Golden in recruiting and general coaching with the football team.
Speaking of his boss, Cristobal only spoke highly of the man with the orange tie in his introduction to the media on Friday. "That man, Coach Golden, I don't think many people realize the tremendous job the people have done here in the past two years. To get the direction, to establish the leadership, the regiment, the plan, and everything necessary to achieve the goals set for this program. We know the expectations are very high." Golden wasn't present at the press conference and was out recruiting instead. "[Golden] is an intense relentless worker with a vision. I think that's the most important thing. We all know that a goal without a plan is only a wish."
The breakup with Florida International and Cristobal will never be fully known. Since he took over at FIU, Cristobal the Panthers went, and won, their first bowl game in 2010 alongside their first ever Sun Belt Conference title. In 2011, he brought the Panthers back to another bowl game with a victory in the Beef'O'Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl. Before he left to work across town, Cristobal was an assistant coach for three seasons at Miami, primarily with tight ends and the offensive line. Cristobal even graduated from the U in 1993 with his bachelor's degree and in 2001 with his master's degree. To sum it all up: Mario Cristobal has returned home.
"You've got to understand how special this place is," said Cristobal. "Everything is about the vision Coach [Golden] has set for this program: the tasks, the obligations and the responsibilities that this staff has carried out. The way the culture has continually cultivated more and more in becoming a champion. There's a very aggressive mentality in a very positive way [here]." Cristobal left the press conference eager and excited to return to his alma mater. For him, today begins the crucial task of completing the next recruiting class. He said that he has begun, and will continue relentlessly, to bring in talent that Miami is famous for.
For Miami Hurricanes fans, the hire of Mario Cristobal should be embraced as the best thing to happen since Golden came on board. We have a coach who is experienced on all levels of a college football program, a native Miami-born man, and someone who has connections to all the different high school football coaches in South Florida. His support of Al Golden's vision for the program is equally as promising as the ‘Canes continue to build themselves up brick by brick as the offseason progresses.