Mario Cristobal is from Miami, played his college ball with the Hurricanes from 1989-92 and later coached as an assistant in Coral Gables from 2004-06. In other words, he’s the perfect coach to take over at Miami. Cristobal’s hire on Monday is undoubtedly a good storyline for the program and an upgrade over Manny Diaz, as his roots in the city and recruiting ability will help the ‘Canes win battles to keep talent at home. However, focusing only on Cristobal undersells what’s really going on: Miami is trying to get its act together and become a player once again in the world of college football. Cristobal’s arrival is the key (and headline) cog in all of this, but Monday could be a turning point for the program.
According to reports, Cristobal is slated to make $8 million a year at Miami. That’s an increase of nearly $5 million more than what Diaz made in 2020 (just over $3 million) and would’ve comfortably ranked in the top 10 among all FBS coaches last year according to the USA Today database. However, Cristobal’s salary isn’t what should catch everyone's attention when it comes to financials. The program is reportedly set to make significant investments in support staff, resources for recruiting, and give Cristobal a hefty budget to hire assistants. If Miami wants to return to the scene as a national and ACC title contender again, just hiring a successful head coach isn't going to get it done - it has to invest in its program and give the coach all of the resources and off-field personnel he needs to compete at the highest level. Cristobal’s hire, along with the resources coming his way, seems to indicate the ‘Canes are ready to make a big-time investment in its entire program to get this right.
Miami seems to be stuck in the wilderness of college football since an 11-win season in 2003. The Hurricanes have recorded just one season of double-digit victories since that year and haven’t finished higher than No. 11 in the top 25 since ’04. After recording a top-25 finish in every year but one from 1983 to 2005, Miami has just four since ’06. Since joining the ACC in ’04, the ‘Canes have just one division title and have never won the outright conference title. Also, an appearance in the Orange Bowl after the ’17 season is the only major bowl trip for the program since its arrival in the ACC.
Monday’s hire of Cristobal put to rest an unusual process that left Diaz’s future uncertain for far too long. While the process can be questioned, the end result was something Miami desperately needed. The ‘Canes now have a coach capable of recruiting with the best of the best in college football and one that understands the program better than anyone and how to sell it. Also, a top-notch athletic director seems to be the next step. In a matter of days, Miami has seemingly upgraded at head coach and athletic director, while also making a major investment in its football program.
All of the changes in Coral Gables certainly look great on paper, but Miami (and Cristobal) still need to turn dollars and hires into actual wins and progress. There’s a lot to prove, but the ‘Canes are attempting (and seem) to actually be on the path to get it right this time.