I went back and watched Mario Cristobal’s introductory news conference at Oregon — you know, just for fun — and jotted down a few quotes that seem relevant today.
Cristobal talked about his Cuban mother’s response when he said he was leaving Alabama to become the offensive coordinator at Oregon. To illustrate, Cristobal said he pulled out a map to show her where Eugene, Oregon, was in relation to Miami.
“‘OK, Mama, it’s like this: You’re in Miami,’” he remembered saying. “‘You’re down here. I’m going to Oregon, and we’re up here.’
“She goes, ‘So far, so far.’”
Then there was the part where Cristobal was asked about being another Florida guy hired to coach the Ducks, and what he would say to convince everyone he was committed to Oregon for the long haul.
“We felt all in with Oregon after being here just a short amount of time,” Cristobal said. “We want to be here until you have to drag me away kicking and screaming.
“In talking with Rob (Mullens), I wanted it to be known, wanted it to be put in writing, whatever had to be done so there is no chatter, there is no, ‘Hey, we’ve seen something like this.’”
Well, people are chattering. Even with a $10 million buyout written into Cristobal’s contract, his name was among the first mentioned when Miami announced the retirement of coach Mark Richt on Sunday.
That speculation was short-lived, as Miami announced the hiring of Manny Diaz late Sunday. Which means we may never know if Cristobal, who played on two national championship teams with the Hurricanes, would have ditched the Ducks after one year to coach his alma mater.
I don’t claim to know what Cristobal was thinking, but I’ve learned in coaching searches not to underestimate the pull of home. I’ve also seen enough from Cristobal to say that, whatever happened here, it wouldn't be a replay of what Oregon went through last year with Willie Taggart.
Oregon was a career move for Taggart — nothing more, nothing less. He’d barely had time to unpack before the whispers started that he was looking to get out. His $3 million buyout paved the way for a quick exit when Florida State came calling.
Cristobal is in a different position. Had Oregon not promoted him last winter, it’s doubtful he’d be a Power 5 head coach right now. The Ducks took a shot on him, and I think he feels a genuine attachment to Oregon as a result.
That doesn’t mean he’ll never leave. But I would have been surprised to see him leaving now, even for Miami, because it would have gone against so much of what his hiring represented.
The Ducks never would have offered Cristobal the job if they thought there was a chance he’d be another one-and-done. If they had been wrong again, we would have wondered what’s going on with their vetting process. But if you’ve spent any amount of time around Cristobal this season, you’ve seen him embrace Oregon in ways Taggart never did, and you understand why Oregon felt comfortable committing to another coach with Florida roots.
I know why Cristobal’s name was being thrown around, but it’s not a given Miami would have ponied up a $10 million buyout for a coach with a 35-52 record. Nor is it a given that Miami would have been a step up for Cristobal. He would have been leaving Oregon for a school with less talent and higher expectations, knowing that Richt’s 26-13 record in three seasons was deemed not good enough by those still living in Miami’s glory years.
Taggart is proof that a dream job can turn into a headache pretty quickly. Had he stayed at Oregon, he’d likely have two strong recruiting classes and two bowl bids to back up his job security. Instead he took over a tough situation at Florida State, presided over the end of FSU’s 36-year bowl streak and will enter his second season on the hot seat.
At Oregon, Cristobal will be coming back to an eight-win team with 11 returning starters on offense — including a first-round pick at quarterback — and a top-10 recruiting class that includes the highest-rated prospect ever to sign with the Ducks. And he was really going to leave that for a Miami team with quarterback issues that just got blown out in the Pinstripe Bowl?
Sorry, I never saw it. When home calls, you always pick up the phone. But Cristobal has a better situation at Oregon than he would have at Miami, and leaving now would have gone against everything he’s preached since the day he took the job.
I think the Ducks are done introducing football coaches for a while.
Follow Austin on Twitter @austinmeekRG. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.