ACC: Mario Cristobal
Cristobal was fired as FIU coach last December, then hired as tight ends/assistant head coach at Miami in January. CBS Sports was the first to report the news.
For more on the story, click here.
What if your team has a head coach, with a former head coach added into the assistant staff mix? This season in the ACC, we get to find out whether the same cliche applies.
Two former head coaches have landed jobs in the league -- NC State head man Tom O'Brien is now at Virginia as tights ends/associate head coach; and former FIU head coach Mario Cristobal is at Miami, also as tight ends/associate head coach. Both were fired after the 2012 season ended. Georgia Tech also has hired a former head coach in Ted Roof, now in charge of the Jackets' defense.
These hires have put the ACC in a rather unique situation. Of the 14 head coaches who were fired or resigned in the 2012 season, six have landed other jobs. Five of them are now assistants -- two are in the ACC; two are in the SEC (Joker Phillips at Florida and Ellis Johnson at Auburn); and one is in the Big Ten (Bill Cubit at Illinois).
While it's certainly not unusual for fired head coaches to find assistant coaching jobs elsewhere, it seems rare to find three former head coaches taking jobs in one league within a month. There are various reasons for their decisions, but one interesting connection. Each worked previously at the school they have joined.
O'Brien worked at UVa for 15 years under former coach George Welsh. He hired London at Boston College. And he just spent six years as a head coach in the ACC. O'Brien was not ready to give up coaching just yet, and all those connections made sense. So he took London up on his offer.
Cristobal played at Miami, and was an assistant at Miami before getting his shot at FIU. Staying in the area made perfect sense.
Roof, meanwhile, is from Georgia, played at Georgia Tech and previously served as Jackets' defensive coordinator under George O'Leary. He also was the head coach at Duke from 2004-07. Of the three, he is the only one who did not take his team to a bowl game as a head coach.
Their experience is undeniable. But there is also one natural question that already has been raised. Will there be too many chefs trying to bake a souffle? Both O'Brien and Cristobal addressed how they will handle their new found roles as men taking orders as opposed to giving orders during their respective introductory press conferences.
"I should be the best assistant here because I know what (London) goes through, the day-to-day grind it takes to be a head coach," O’Brien told local reporters in Charlottesville. "If I can take some of that off of him and make us all better coaches, that’s what I want to do."
Said Cristobal: "I was the same person as an assistant coach, as a head coach. I don’t think that changes,” he said. “I think you are what you are when you wake up in the morning and when you go to bed at night. I don’t think it changes. If it does you were probably raised the wrong way.
"I’m ready to accept and excel at each and every role I’m assigned to so that we can do whatever possible to make sure we flat out win at everything we do — football, classroom, community, everything."
Conor in Tallahassee, Fla., writes: Oops... it looks as though Fisher's vague plans for the future of the OC position in regards to play calling has come back to haunt him in the form of a departure from one of the most important recruiters/assistants the Noles had, James Coley. With signing day approaching, do you see this vacancy hindering a strong finish by FSU in recruiting. Also, please give us Seminole fans some hope... do you see a new play caller being hired/named in the near future?
HD: I refuse to try and figure out the minds of teenagers, so I don't know how it will affect their decisions this year. You would think the fact that FSU has lost six assistants would factor into some decisions, but you never know. Jimbo Fisher is still a heckuva closer, but in the future, I think it will definitely have an impact -- unless, of course, Jimbo finds an assistant who can recruit as well, and Billy Napier was certainly a good hire in that regards. The issue of the play calling is critical, and there's little doubt that it will factor into the hire. Who out there would be willing to do all of the other grunt work required by a coordinator, and yet relinquish the power of calling plays? Sometimes it works. It works for Paul Johnson. It wasn't working for Jimbo Fisher.
Jason in Miami, Fla., writes: Coley is a GREAT hire, no doubt. Would have to argue that Cristobal is the bigger hire though. He basically bridged the gap between Golden and Coley.
HD: You might be right. I'd be willing to go with that, but the reason I said Coley was bigger was because Al Golden got him from his rival's staff. That's HUGE. Miami found a way to help itself while giving FSU a kick in the shins. In Jimbo Fisher's words, that's a "double whammy."
Alan Squires in Raleigh, N.C., writes: Hey Heather i was just wondering why Carolina is not getting a little more respect going into next season, i understand that Gio is gone but they have a 4 star running back coming in next year in TJ Logan along with the 2 running backs they had last year coming back, you picked Miami to win the coastal next year and Carolina beat Miami last year, i was just wondering your thoughts on that.Thanks
HD:Yes, you're right, UNC has lots of talent returning, but Miami has more, especially up front on the offensive line. To me the Heels have a lot to prove because of how much they lose on offense and in the return game. It's not just Giovani Bernard, it's his lead blocker -- Outland finalist Jonathan Cooper -- and a total of three starters on the offensive line. And Bernard's impact in the return game was huge. The offensive line will return tackle James Hurst (three-year starter) and center Russell Bodine, but the other three spots will need to be filled. Guard Landon Turner started the last four games after Brennan Williams got hurt. At running back, UNC returns senior A.J. Blue (433 yards, 9 touchdowns) and sophomore Romar Morris (386 yards, 2 touchdowns). They have recruited well at that position, but those guys are unproven.
Trenton Tovar in Nashville, Tenn., writes: Dear Heather,I'm sure you're going to get a lot of emails condemning the NCAA over the Miami investigation, so I want to play devil's advocate and take the NCAA's side. Given the lack of subpoena power, it sounds like the NCAA just got fed up and decided to shell out money to someone in the know to actually tell them the truth. Is that really so bad?
Matthew in Atlanta, Ga., writes: Heather, why is it that all of the sudden, due to one bad season in 20 years, VT falls off the map? All I read or hear about is FSU, Clemson and Miami being the top teams in the ACC. How is that? FSU and Miami have a string of bad years but each year I had to hear FSU and Miami are back!! VT has ONE bad year and it's like they never existed. Come on, are we that desperate to prop these schools up that we forget our history? Why not give credit where credit is due?
HD: Because Virginia Tech doesn't deserve much credit right now? That offense was painful -- painful -- to watch this year. It was the program's worst season in 20 years. Virginia Tech was barely bowl eligible. Frank Beamer has gotten plenty of credit for his success there. Florida State and Miami had better seasons this year. That's just how it goes, but I expect Virginia Tech to be the most improved team in the ACC in 2013.
Scott in Beckley, W. Va., writes: Hi HD, opinion question, do you think with Maryland leaving the ACC that WVU would have got an invitation to join had they been available?
HD: It's an interesting question. One of my first reactions after the ACC announced it would add Louisville was, "well, then, why didn't they just add West Virginia in the first place?" It's a moot point now, but I think the answer would be yes, it would have gone after WVU had it been available because the decision to add Louisville was a concession on the ACC's part that a strong athletic program -- in this case -- was more important than the previous academic standard.
Do you know what else Miami produced in the early part of that decade? Head coaches. The Miami coaching staffs of 2000 and 2001 -- staffs that had a huge role in the recruitment and development of those pro prospects -- have produced both NFL and college head coaches.
Not just one or two, either.
With the Cleveland Browns' recent hire of Rob Chudzinski, the 1999-2000 staff under Butch Davis produced six head coaches -- three of them now in the NFL.
- Rob Chudzinski, tight ends coach. Interestingly enough, his former boss (Davis) left Miami after the 2000 season to coach Cleveland.
- Greg Schiano, defensive coordinator. Left for Rutgers after 2000 season and now Tampa Bay Bucs head coach.
- Larry Coker, offensive coordinator. Succeeded Davis after the 2000 season, now head coach at UT-San Antonio.
- Chuck Pagano, defensive backs. Now coaching Indianapolis Colts, and became an inspiration for his battle with leukemia.
- Curtis Johnson, receivers coach. Entering his second year as Tulane head coach.
- Mario Cristobal, graduate assistant. Spent six years as FIU head coach before rejoining Miami staff last week.
As for the 2001 staff, which helped Miami win the national championship and produced arguably the greatest team in college football history:
- Mark Stoops, defensive backs. Replaced Pagano and is now head coach at Kentucky.
- Randy Shannon, defensive coordinator. Succeeded Coker and served as Miami coach from 2007-10.
- Chudzinski and Johnson. Both remained on staff.
Lots of folks mention the Nick Saban coaching tree, but when you look at the staff Davis assembled, the group he had around him in the late 1990s and 2000 is pretty impressive.
We can sit here and debate Davis and his abilities as a head coach, and go back and forth on his role in what went down at North Carolina. But it's hard to ignore the fact he has a pretty good eye for talent -- both among players and coaches.
- Even though Clemson lost DeAndre Hopkins, the Tigers have had a productive offseason to date. Four Clemson commits are listed among the ESPN 150. Lots of big official visits this weekend.
- David Hale of Nole Nation looks at EJ Manuel's consistency in 2012.
- How will new Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Ted Roof impact recruiting? Roof discusses his decision to leave Penn State.
- Mario Cristobal's hire gives the Miami staff a South Florida feel. Receiver Phillip Dorsett has joined the indoor track team.
- Short-time UVa assistant Jeff Banks is reportedly going to Texas A&M.
- Has a new candidate emerged for Virginia Tech's offensive coordinator job?
It is not too often the perfect fit falls into a coach's lap. That is exactly what happened to Al Golden, who had the common sense to realize he had to snap Cristobal up before anybody else could take him away. Cristobal's title (associate head coach/tight ends) means little, quite honestly.
His value lies in two critical areas: recruiting and coaching experience. It helps, of course, that Cristobal is from Miami, played at Miami and has roots so embedded in Miami, he hesitated when head coaching opportunities at Pitt and Rutgers came his way a little over a year ago.
So Cristobal's FIU team struggled under heightened expectations in 2012, going 3-9 -- and a season that ultimately (and surprisingly) cost him his job. That does nothing to diminish the tireless work he put in turning around a program that had facilities worse than many high schools when he took the head coaching job in 2006. Not to mention crushing sanctions as a result of infractions before his arrival.
FIU reached heights it had never seen before, and may not see again for a long while. The Panthers reached those heights with kids recruited from the South Florida area -- kids that may have been overlooked by Miami or Florida or Florida State. Kids that perhaps were recruited by those schools but wanted an opportunity to play right away or just wanted to play for Cristobal, period.
His recruiting ties to the area run longer than Golden's, longer than anybody on the current staff save for Art Kehoe. Cristobal is seen as a young, rising star in the business and a move like this works for Miami and it works for him. How long will it last? Well, you can ask that of any coach in America. There is no doubt Cristobal would love another head coaching job. Working at Miami again should only enhance his reputation, and help Miami.
Cristobal knows how to recruit, and he knows how to coach and he knows how to win. That, in the end, will help Miami win. No matter how long he stays.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
The spring recruiting period began April 15, and Florida State recruiting coordinator James Coley is getting ready to hit the road. He'll start in Connecticut and end in California, and the Noles' staff will hit the state of Florida hardest in between. They're not allowed any contact with the players.
Things have been a little different for the Seminoles' staff since the university's athletic department was slapped with the NCAA sanctions, which included a loss of scholarships. Coley addressed that, along with other topics related to recruiting in this Q&A:
First, can you just tell me what you're going to do, and what you can do this spring.
James Coley: Here's our process. Here's what I'm going to do this spring and what our coaches are going to do. We can't have any contact with any players. So what we do is we try to profile these kids when we go out in spring. We know the kids we want to see. We have a selected group targeted.
When we go in these schools, we talk to the head coaches and they give us an athletic profile of the kid -- who is this kid on his team. Is he going to be a captain for you? We already know he's a good player. That's why we're at that school. We've seen film on him. As an athlete, we want that player. What we're trying to find out is, what is he character-wise? Is he a leader? Is he a team morale guy? Maybe he's not. We get that through the coaches. Then we move on up.
We either hit that athlete's counselor, or an assistant principal, somebody from the academic department so we can take that transcript and bring it back with us so we can start tracking this kid with regards to academics early. If there's no practice, that will be it for that athlete. Unless everything we get from that particular institution is so positive we can come back out and have an athletic evaluation. If they're running a track meet or playing in a baseball game, we can come back out and watch him perform.
So how long will you guys be on the road?
JC: From the last week of April all the way through the last week of May, the entire month.