Mario Cristobal is returning to Miami this summer to make some repairs to his mother’s house, which he grew up in.
The native son won’t be staying for long.
Cristobal, whose name surfaced as a possible candidate to return to Miami after Mark Richt stepped down as the Hurricanes coach in December, recently signed an amended contract at Oregon worth more than $14 million over five years that runs through Jan. 14, 2024.
“I think we’ve made it no secret since day one this is where we want to be,” Cristobal said during a recent interview with The Register-Guard. “We’re obviously very grateful for the opportunity, thankful to be rewarded in such a manner and looking forward to doing everything humanly possible to continue to elevate everything that relates to our program, our community and our student-athletes.”
Cristobal brought some stability to the program after Mark Helfrich was fired following a 4-8 finish in 2016 and Willie Taggart left for Florida State after a 7-5 finish in 2017.
The Ducks finished Cristobal’s first season 9-4 overall with a signature victory over eventual Pac-12 champion Washington, a dominant triumph at Oregon State and a 7-6 win over Michigan State in the Redbox Bowl.
Oregon, which opens the season against Auburn on Aug. 31 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, is expected to compete for the 2019 Pac-12 championship.
Senior quarterback Justin Herbert will lead a veteran cast that adds the highest ranked recruiting class in school history to the roster.
“I think they were motivated at the close of the Redbox Bowl. I do,” Cristobal said of his players. “I think everyone felt we’ve proven that we could compete and beat a top-10 team. We’ve proven that we can go on the road and get it done in a rivalry game. Now we’ve proven we can go against a Big Ten team, a tough team, and win at a foreign place, like being on the road.
“So what is next? Next is being able to do that consistently without any setbacks.”
Oregon offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo’s unit, which returns 10 starters, needs to perform more consistently with key road games at Stanford, Washington and USC.
The 39-year-old journeyman is also looking for some job stability after coaching at six different FBS programs and in the NFL over an eight-year span before arriving in Eugene in 2017.
The Arroyo family recently sold their properties in Florida and Wyoming with an eye on making Oregon home, at least until an attractive head coaching opportunity presents itself.
“Things escalate so fast as a young coach with a young family,” said Arroyo, whose contract runs through the 2020 season with $1.68 million in guaranteed salary. “I’ve got a daughter now who is 5. So the last five years have been different with me taking that into consideration for schooling and who she’s going to get raised around and doing it the right way without bouncing around.
“I’m going to be here as long as I can. This is a great spot. We’ve sold both of our other houses, which is something I thought we’d never do, and really dropped anchor.”
Cristobal was named head coach shortly after Taggart’s abrupt departure in December 2017. After keeping Jim Leavitt, who also wanted the job, for one season, Cristobal officially broke off the awkward marriage on Valentine’s Day.
First-year defensive coordinator Andy Avalos, a standout player at Boise State, decided to leave his alma mater for the challenge of coaching in the Pac-12.
Avalos signed a three-year $2.45 million deal to leave Boise State 14 months after his defense shut down Herbert and the Ducks in the Las Vegas Bowl. Leavitt, who was the Pac-12’s highest paid assistant, is still owed up to $2.5 million.
“The opportunity to learn and grow is really what it is, the opportunity to develop,” Avalos said of the move. “I felt like this is a place, because the coaches that are here, coach Cristobal number one, that I’d be able to grow in a lot of different ways. There’s not many places my family and I would have left Boise State for. The opportunity to win, to be successful, and the opportunity to grow were the main things.
“And to be with these people here within this culture.”
Cristobal is confident in Arroyo’s growth entering his second season as the play-caller and excited about the chemistry on the defensive staff with associate head coaches Joe Salave’a (defensive line) and Keith Heyward (safeties) embracing Avalos’ vision for the unit.
“I think we have a room of guys who are great teachers and humble enough to listen,” Heyward said. “I don’t see that there’s any issue where there’s too many chiefs in the room. I’m excited about where we’re going and excited about what we did defensively after the spring.”
Oregon might be the favorite to win the Pac-12 when the preseason poll is released July 24.
Cristobal will be joined by Herbert and linebacker Troy Dye at the conference’s media day event in Hollywood.
“It’s the ultimate honor to be here,” Cristobal said. “We just love it, we love every bit of it. That’s why we’re up 20 hours of the day. We’re really just ingrained and entrenched in it.”