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Pitt Coaching Search: Another Look At Mario Cristobal

Now that FIU just ended their season last night in the Beef O'Brady's bowl, losing to Marshall 20-10, Pitt can begin serious discussions with their head coach, Mario Cristobal, to try and get him to move north to coach the Panthers. But it may be tougher than some thought. Cristobal grew up in Miami, went to the U, and now coaches at FIU, which happens to be located in Miami. Needless to say, the guy likes Miami.

Last night, ESPN reported that the FIU AD was aware that Pitt was speaking with Cristobal and when asked what it may take to keep Cristobal in Miami, he said "A lot of love".

Love they can give. Money, not so much. Pitt will likely offer around $2 million (what Fraud was making) and Cristobal's current coaching salary is $500,000.

At the very least, Cristobal has earned the right to land a major head coaching job. Consider when he arrived at FIU, they were coming off an 0-12 season and had just been hit with an NCAA violation, where 40 players were found ineligible, and resulted in a loss of three scholarships and four years probation. His first three seasons were rough, going 9-27, including 7-15 in the Sun Belt.

But these past two seasons have been seasons of firsts for FIU. Last season, he led FIU to a co-Sun Belt title and a thrilling bowl win over Toledo in the Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl, their first bowl game and bowl win in school history. This year, he led FIU to their best record in school history, going 8-5, and reached a second consecutive bowl. He also beat Louisville this season and, if you remember, played Pitt fairly close for 3 quarters last season. FIU's record this season prior to their bowl game was the best in the entire state of Florida (FSU 8-4, Florida 6-6, Miami 6-6, USF 5-7, UCF 5-7). I don't care what conference you play in. That's impressive.

Cristobal is known as an excellent recruiter, having recruited several touted recruits to FIU during his tenure, obviously not something easy to do. He also has had good defenses while in Miami, where the unit allowed just 348 yards a game this season (by comparison, Pitt allowed 355 yards a game this season). His offenses have not been that great - outside of a top half finish in 2010, FIU has finished in the bottom third in total offense in his five seasons there, including in the bottom 20 a total of three times.

With Pitt's move to the ACC, it makes more sense that the program starts focusing recruiting in the Southeast rather than Texas and the Midwest - areas that Pitt would have targeted had Graham stayed. Pitt has also had success in Florida in the past and found quality players there. Cristobal has spent most of his life in Florida. He also spent three seasons coaching the offensive line and tight ends at Rutgers. Those are two big recruiting areas that Pitt will be able to use should Cristobal get the job.