Mario Cristobal hired as Miami football coach, replacing Manny Diaz

‘I can’t wait to compete for championships,’ ex-Hurricanes lineman says

Mario Cristobal played for the Hurricanes from 1988 to 1992 and was later hired as an assistant coach under Butch Davis. (Rick Bowmer, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Twice a national champion as a player, Mario Cristobal has been hired as the University of Miami’s new football coach and has his sights set on returning his alma mater to prominence.

Cristobal, a Miami native, told his players at the University of Oregon about the decision to leave Monday morning as Hurricanes coach Manny Diaz was fired.

“My family and I are excited to return home to the University of Miami, which has been so instrumental in shaping me as a person, player, and coach,” Cristobal said in a statement as his hiring was officially announced. “This program has an unparalleled tradition and an exciting future ahead of it. I can’t wait to compete for championships and help mold our student-athletes into leaders on and off the field who will make our university, our community, and our loyal fan base proud.”

Cristobal’s deal is for 10 years at an average of $8 million per year, the Miami Herald reported.

He arrived in South Florida just after 10:30 p.m. when his flight arrived at Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport.

Mario Cristobal arrives at Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport after being named the next head football coach at the University of Miami. (WPLG)

A graduate of Columbus High School, he won national titles as an offensive lineman for the Hurricanes in 1989 and 1991.

Cristobal, 51, coached Oregon to Pac-12 titles in 2019 and 2020 before falling in the conference’s championship game against Utah on Friday night. His Ducks won the Rose Bowl in January 2020.

“We are incredibly excited to welcome Mario, his wife, Jessica, and their sons Mario Mateo and Rocco home to Miami,” University of Miami President Julio Frenk said in a statement. “Mario’s legacy as a student-athlete at The U is well established. And the standard for competitive excellence that he and his teammates helped establish is one to which we continue to aspire. Our selection, however, was not one based in nostalgia for a proud past, but rather in a bold vision for a promising future.

“The characteristics that helped Mario excel as a national championship-winning player—drive, determination, and discipline—continue to propel his success as a coach. In Mario, we have found a head coach who shares our belief in providing student-athletes with the very best opportunities to succeed on and off the field, and our commitment to winning at the highest level.”

Cristobal was offered a contract extension to remain the head coach at Oregon and had spent the weekend deciding whether to stay with the Ducks or come home to South Florida.

He played for the ‘Canes from 1988 to 1992 and was later hired as an assistant coach by Butch Davis in 1998.

His career has also included stops at Florida International University as a head coach and the University of Alabama, where Cristobal was Nick Saban’s assistant head coach and offensive line coach.

While at Alabama, Cristobal was a key member of the school’s recruiting efforts.

He had been Oregon’s head coach since December 2017, after Willie Taggart left the Ducks for Florida State.

“We appreciate all of Mario’s accomplishments and hard work here at Oregon, and we wish him and his family all the best in their next chapter,” Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens said.

Diaz, 47, was 21-15 as Miami’s head coach. He was the team’s defensive coordinator for three years before that under Mark Richt.

“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 in a statement. “We wish him and his family the very best as they move forward.”

Miami is also working to hire a new athletic director.

Clemson AD Dan Radakovich has been widely reported as Miami’s top choice for the job.

A UM graduate, Radakovich earned a master’s degree in business administration from Miami in 1982, then a year later it is where he began his career in athletic administration.

Miami plays Washington State in the Sun Bowl on Dec. 31. It’s not yet known who will be the coach for that game.

About the Authors:

David Dwork joined the WPLG Local 10 News team in August 2019. Born and raised in Miami-Dade County, David has covered South Florida sports since 2007.