AP source: Mario Cristobal headed to Miami after Manny Diaz firing

  • FILE -O regon head coach Mario Cristobal watches the action during the third quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021, in Eugene, Ore. Manny Diaz was fired as Miami’s football coach Monday, Dec. 6, 2021, after a 7-5 regular season and with the school in deep negotiations to bring Oregon coach Mario Cristobal back to his alma mater to take over. (AP Photo/Andy Nelson, File) Andy Nelson

  • Miami head coach Manny Diaz encourages his team during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Duke, Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021, in Durham, N.C. (AP Photo/Chris Seward) Chris Seward

  • Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal directs his players during the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game against Oregon State, Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021, in Eugene, Ore. (AP Photo/Andy Nelson) Andy Nelson

  • Miami head coach Manny Diaz watches the action during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Duke, Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021, in Durham, N.C. (AP Photo/Chris Seward) Chris Seward

  • Miami head coach Manny Diaz, center, reacts during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Virginia Tech, Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. Miami won 38-26. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) Lynne Sladky

  • Miami head coach Manny Diaz watches during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Virginia Tech, Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) Lynne Sladky

  • Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal, left, and Oregon State head coach Jonathan Smith shake hands after an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021, in Eugene, Ore. (AP Photo/Andy Nelson) Andy Nelson

  • Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal shouts in the second half during an NCAA college football game against Utah, Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer) Rick Bowmer

Associated Press
Published: 12/6/2021 5:26:18 PM
Modified: 12/6/2021 5:25:49 PM

CORAL GABLES, Fla. — For Mario Cristobal, the road has always led back to Miami.

Once again, he’s coming home.

A person with direct knowledge of the decision said Cristobal is leaving Oregon and returning to Miami, accepting an offer to become the head coach at his alma mater, where he won two national championships as a player. He let the Ducks know of the decision Monday, according to the person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because it had not been publicly announced.

Cristobal’s team meeting in Oregon was nearly simultaneous to the other part of the move, that being Miami announcing the firing of coach Manny Diaz after three seasons. Diaz was hired on the same day that Mark Richt stepped down in 2018; this time, the football vacancy was even shorter, since Miami wasn’t firing Diaz without a commitment from Cristobal to come aboard.

A second person, also with knowledge of the school’s plans, said Miami expects to complete the hiring of Dan Radakovich as athletic director this week. Radakovich has been athletic director at Clemson but started his career in sports administration 40 years ago at Miami, a school where he got one of his degrees.

Cristobal played at Miami, was part of the 1989 and 1991 title-winning teams, then returned to start his coaching career as a graduate assistant for the Hurricanes under Butch Davis in 1998.

He left to spend three seasons at Rutgers, then returned to Miami from 2004 through 2006. He wanted to be a candidate for the job when the Hurricanes fired Larry Coker but was hired as coach at FIU and spent six seasons there.

A four-season stint as an Alabama assistant followed, and then he spent four more years as head coach in Oregon — winning two Pac-12 titles and playing in the title game this season as well.

But the lure of home was just too strong. So, once again, the Miami native is returning.

It comes after Diaz was fired following a 7-5 regular season and going 21-15 in three seasons at Miami. His job security had been in question for some time, and speculation ramped up three weeks ago when the Hurricanes dismissed athletic director Blake James — one of the people who hired Diaz in 2018.

But Diaz kept working, even in recent days while the school was trying to pry Cristobal out of Oregon. Firing Diaz, though, suggested Miami was secure in the belief that Cristobal is coming. “An announcement regarding new leadership for the football program will be forthcoming,” the university said in the news release where it revealed that school president Julio Frenk had fired Diaz.

Miami will play Washington State in the Sun Bowl later this month. It’s unknown who will be the interim coach for that game.

Diaz was criticized by an impatient Miami fan base for some bad losses, such as a 2019 defeat to FIU and the bowl loss later that season to Louisiana Tech. The Hurricanes started 2-4 this season, one of those defeats coming to Virginia when Miami missed a short field goal that would have won the game as time expired.

But Diaz’s fate may have been sealed with a 31-28 loss to Florida State last month, a game where the Hurricanes let the Seminoles take the lead in the final seconds on a drive where they couldn’t get a stop on a fourth-and-14 play.

“We are grateful to Coach Diaz for his many contributions to our campus community and to his native South Florida, and for the strong leadership and exemplary character he exhibited during his tenure at the University,” Frenk said. “We wish him and his family the very best as they move forward.”

Miami went 5-1 in Diaz’s final six games. And with the exception of Notre Dame’s one-year appearance as a conference member, Diaz guided Miami to the second-best record in Atlantic Coast Conference games in his three seasons. The Hurricanes were 16-9 against league opponents in that span, behind only Clemson.

The recruits Diaz landed in the last two years proved to be among Miami’s best players in 2021. Miami was the lone ACC team to beat conference champion Pitt this season and after the regular-season finale, many players took to social media to post support for Diaz.

Diaz’s firing continues what is now an 18-year cycle of impatience at Miami, starting with the season in which the Hurricanes joined the ACC. That was 2004, and the Hurricanes are still waiting for their first conference championship.

Coker — the last coach to bring the Hurricanes a national title in 2001 — was fired despite going 53-9 in his first five seasons, then managing only a 6-6 mark in his sixth and final regular season with the Hurricanes.

Randy Shannon was 28-22 in the next four seasons. Al Golden — who didn’t know he was inheriting a program that was about to get hammered by NCAA sanctions thanks in large part to the actions of rogue former booster who went to prison for masterminding a Ponzi scheme — went 32-25. Mark Richt went 26-13 in three seasons, then retired with five years left on his contract amid constant complaints from fans that his son Jon shouldn’t have been coaching Miami’s quarterbacks.

And now Diaz joins that list.


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