A little more than two years ago, Florida International University athletic director Pete Garcia fired Mario Cristobal in a move that shook the college football community. Cristobal was immediately snatched up by a top school, and since then; he’s getting the last laugh.
Cristobal was coming off a 3-9 record when Garcia fired him in December 2012. However, he had gone 15-11 in 2010 and 2011, won a Sun Belt championship, and appeared in two straight bowl games before the 2012 season.
Garcia then made the move to hire Ron Turner, who had been out of college coaching for almost a decade when he took over at FIU. In Turner’s first season, the Panthers went 1-11 and were not competitive and came close to losing all 12 games, the only win coming against a Southern Miss team that didn’t win a game. Turner’s overall record in two years at FIU is 5-19 (.263 winning percentage).
After FIU’s surprising termination, Cristobal went to arguably the top college football program in the country, the University of Alabama, and hasn’t looked back. Cristobal coached the offensive line at Alabama, which consistently turns out pro prospects and bulldozes holes for the Tide’s stable of running backs.
But where Cristobal really is making his mark is on the recruiting trail. The young coach was always considered a great recruiter, but he’s really made his name known while at Alabama.
For the 2015 recruiting class, which will officially sign next week, Cristobal has landed 11 commitments, including 3 five-star players, 6 four-star players, and 2 three-star players, according to 247sports.com. The same website lists Cristobal as the top recruiter in the SEC and the top recruiter in the entire nation.
Cristobal is also snatching top talent away from his old stomping grounds of South Florida. He secured one of the top wide receiver recruits in the nation when he got a verbal commitment from Calvin Ridley of Pompano Beach, Florida. Cristobal also landed a verbal commitment from five-star defensive tackle Daron Payne to join the Tide juggernaut next year.
As Cristobal heads into another season at Alabama, his future is bright if he wants to stay at Bama or return to the head coaching ranks. The former UM player could be one of the hottest commodities on the market as early as next year, depending on how the chips fall during the 2015 college football season.