Let's not kid ourselves. Mario Cristobal will leave FIU sooner than later. Do I know this as a fact? No, of course I don't. In my conversations with the coach, he's made it clear how much he loves South Florida and how proud he is of what he's building at FIU.
Yet, the reality is, Cristobal is one of the hot, young coaches in the nation. He's helped turn around an awful program at FIU. He's led the Golden Panthers to back-to-back bowl appearances. Simply put, he's accomplished the goals he set when he arrived 5 years ago. Well, he's almost accomplished those goals.
Cristobal turned down Rutgers for a couple of simple reasons. The first being he really does love being the coach at FIU. He knows how close this school is from doing some special things. He has a good portion of his starters returning next season, and he wants to see how high this program can climb. The other reason is also simple: he can do better than Rutgers.
For Cristobal to leave, it would take a perfect opportunity. Plenty of schools have and will continue to call, but Cristobal is in no hurry to just leave. He's in that rare position that success brings. He can pick and choose what he wants to do and where he wants to go.
While Rutgers was an interesting choice, the fact is, FIU is not that far away from being like Rutgers. That's if his team hasn't already reached that point. When Cristobal leaves, it will be to a big-time program. It will be a real dream opportunity. What will that be? I have no clue, and I'm sure Cristobal doesn't know either. The point is, that time will come. It wasn't now, and FIU gets to reap the benefits for, at least, another year. Will next year be the time? Only time will tell, but we know big schools will come knocking. Cristobal has proven to be that good. Trust me, one day he'll answer that call and move on, and no one could blame him for it.
He's worked hard to accomplish something many thought he'd never do. He's built FIU into a solid football program. But, as Cristobal made clear by his decision to stay, he still has more work to do.
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