Over the weekend, Mario Cristobal made the choice to leave Miami after a month on the job to take a better offer at Alabama. Understandably, Canes fans were livid. So did Mario use Miami as a stepping stone? Did he commit some heinous crime of coaching?
The short answer? No. He did a completely normal thing.
The coaching world is rife with guys taking a job, and then moving on shortly after. It is not so much a question of disloyalty, but of taking the best available job at the time, and then having something better come up. The caveat with the Mario situation is that Miami is his alma mater, the place where he played, he won, he coached. The job that got him the head coaching gig at Florida International. Why would he pass all of that up in short order for a position that, on paper, looks to be marginally better than the one he held at Miami? Let's break it down.
Cristobal has made it no secret that he wants to be a head coach again. That's completely expected coming from a guy who was fired from his head coaching job without good reason. The issue for him, is that a head coaching gig at FIU is not going to be an immediate spring board to the more desirable HC jobs around the country. Sure, he did fantastic work there, but it's just too big of a jump for a big name school to hire a guy like Mario. The logical next step would be to pay his dues at a job that is a step down, and that would mean a coordinator or assistant at a larger school. The flip side of this is that the school that hires him is taking a calculated risk. You are hiring a guy who clearly wants to be the guy in charge, and telling him that he has to take a lesser role for a while. It's a short term hire, regardless of institution. As far as Mario is concerned, which track will get him back to the head coaching ranks quicker? Being an assistant under Al Golden at Miami, a school in its third year of rebuilding, or doing the same job under Nick Saban at Alabama, two of the hottest, if not THE hottest, names in the college football game right now? It's a no-brainer. Factor in the difference in the SEC versus the ACC, and you can easily understand that Bama is the quickest path Mario could get.
If you drill deeper, you get to the comparison between coaching the O line and coaching tight ends. Mario was an offensive lineman. That's what he knows. The only reason that he was given tight ends and not offensive line at Miami was because of Art Kehoe. If you are wanting to pay your dues and further your cause for promotion, it's a heck of a lot easier to do so coaching the position you are most familiar with. Some Canes fans would say that the ties to his alma mater should be enough to overcome the difference in coaching the two positions, and while that may be true, that assumption doesn't factor in the third, and most important factor in Mario's decision.
Everyone wants to believe that money isn't everything. That it can't buy you happiness. While that is a nice mantra, and it looks good on a bumper sticker, frankly, it's crap. Money talks, and everyone has a price. Sure, Mario and his family were nowhere near to poverty line in Miami, but more is better, and Bama is almost tripling his assumed Miami salary. That type of money coupled with all other factors, and its easy to see why he made the choice that he did.
Look, I hate this just as much as the rest of you. Mario turned his back on his alma mater for money and to advance his own career. On one hand, you can't fault a guy for that, because that's what coaches do. They aren't in the business for any other reason that to get to the top, and he's doing that. On the other hand, you do expect some modicum of loyalty to not only your current boss, but to the school that has helped you in so many ways. I think this pretty much shuts the door on Mario ever coming back to Miami in any capacity, although that's never going to be a thing that people can be sure of. I'm with all of you, if I am in his position, I stick, but that's just me, and you, and whoever else values some level of loyalty.
One thing I do know, is that the administration and staff will not ever publicly make it known that he is not welcome back, no matter how many fans clamor to want to hear it. You simply don't black ball coaches unless there is a damn good reason, and this isn't one. However, public acknowledgement or not, you would have to think that they would be wary of looking his way again, and, being the smart man that he is, Mario has to understand that completely.
The 1 month Mario era is over, and it's time to move on. Let Golden hire someone who wants to be here, wish Mario well in his career, and that's that.