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Mario Cristobal Q&A Part 1

You good people have asked the questions and FIU football coach Mario Cristobal has answered. We got more thanMc 40 questions to get to. We'll divide the MC Q&A into several parts. If you don't see your question in this post, don't run yelling out of the room. The questions have been answered and we'll get to all of them. Here's the first set with MC's answers....

FIUFPL: Can we have details on plans to have the football team walk to the stadium followed by the band, and surrounded on either side by the fans/students/alumni?


MC: It’s a tradition that we want to establish. What we are looking at in the future -- and of course it depends on funding which of course the entire state of Florida depends on -- is to have a giant Panther statue out in front of the stadium where we can line up a Panther Walk lining both sides of that walkway with fans, family, friends, maniacal people that are all about the blue and gold and be able to walk right through there on the way to the locker room and prepare to take the field.


FIU Fanatic: What aspect/aspects of FIU in general, do you believe has/have been the best one(s), or most successful, in order to "sell" a recruit why he HAS to come to FIU?


MC: There are several. Like any business in the world: location, location, location. We all learned that in high school or in college. That’s number one. Number two when you set foot on campus it wows you, because FIU is an impressive place from top to bottom. From the classroom settings to the new facilities that are being built which are state-of-the-art and some of the finest in the entire country. To the people on campus from academic support people to professors and deans to the training staff and administrative staff. And of course the coaching staff. You have some dynamic people that love FIU and want to take it to the highest level and are completely committed to it. The energy that is felt when recruits get on campus has really opened some eyes. Recruits often times say, "Wow, I never knew" and they leave here with a great impression.


Fiustadium OC Panther: What’s the toughest place to play in the SBC?

MC: The toughest place to play in the Sun Belt is right here at FIU Stadium for all opponents that enter our stadium.

Nick F: Given the huge momentum that exists with the program, how will you be able to rein in the focus of the players, to play consistent all season?

MC: I think our players have a firm grasp of the process and respect the process. The process is not about the scoreboard and it’s not about the hype. It’s making sure we are the best possible football team that we can be while doing great in the classroom. That is on us as coaches. How do we do it? We coach hard. We coach extremely hard and very detailed fully pointing out no matter how great a player has done in a particular practice that he can always improve. I think that keeps us grounded.

Gold: When you accepted the position to become FIU's head coach, if someone would have told you on that day where your program would stand going into year three, would you have said that it would:
a) exceeding your expectations
b) meeting your expectations
c) not meeting your expectations

MC: We have exceeded our expectations. The facts were clear. The team was 0-12, on probation with limited scholarships and losing scholarships going forward with a very poor academic performance. Those are monster hurdles. Those are not easy. I think with the commitment of our players, the commitment of our athletic director and the staff all have done something about as impressive as it gets in terms of turnarounds and I think all it’s done is made us hungrier. It’s whet our appetite. It’s stoked our fire, because we know in the big picture it’s going to translate into championships.

JSuarez88: What kind of role do you think Larvez Mars (right) will have this season? Has he gained any Mars weight?

MC: He is as good as any freshman linebacker in the country. Extreme energy. I have watched him in practice for three years now out there. Let’s just say he and Anthony Gaitor (left, thanks AJH photo) are going to get along real well. They will make practice alive and they will make the offense step up, because they will Gaitor crank it up in practice. Also expect him to be very smart, to take the defense in and I expect him to come in and challenge for a starting position. At last I checked, Pooh Bear was about 220. He’s big enough. He’s a thick kid – upper and lower body, strong, physical, fast, explosive. Apopka is known for its weightlifting.



You answer Gold's question above. Inheriting an 0-12 team and a program on probation, how has FIU done under MC since then....


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Coach Cristobal has more than exceeded expectations.

At the same time, we now have a new set of expectations that include Sun Belt Championship and setting up to move to a bigger conference.

I have NO DOUBT WHATSOEVER that MC will be able to EASILY accomplish this.

Is it August yet?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?

I know that was my question but I need to say he has met my expectations.

I want to admit something, I was raised a canes fan like many of us here and grew up watching, loving and supporting the canes. Even when FIU began their program, I still rooted for the canes because there was no effort by the Don Strock administration towards FIU football. I didn’t like the direction that DS was taking the team. Every time that I met DS he seemed to be more interested in his golf swing than FIU and that simply turned me off. Why should I support a program that simply didn’t care about the program itself? For this reason, I continued to support our cross town rival.

The minute that PG hired MC, I knew that there was something special that was about to happen. Then came the on campus stadium and then we started to go after the top recruits then the upset in Toledo and winning recruiting battles and a snow ball effect soon followed.

I knew that MC was going to turn this ship around. We are in the heart of one of the best recruiting locations in the country and MC and staff were hungry. I will take anyone on my team who is hungry than someone who has an "I am comfortable" or “been there done that” mentality and approach to the job. The fact that they want to make this a world class athletic program, build it from the ground up and compete right away for a Sun Belt championship speaks volume. With that kind of attitude I am not surprised that FIU is where it is today and I expect nothing less than a Sun Belt champ this very season. I know we can do it and will travel to Jersey (I live in DC) to support us as we upset Rutgers.

What MC did it at Rutgers was amazing. That program sucked. He knows what it takes to build a championship and is a Columbus grad (yea I am biased, GO EXPLORERS) he will lead FIU to the top!

We are FIU and we know our role, we are hungry, we play the underdog role, we have something to prove and we demand respect. With the recent success of the liberal arts program, the college of business, the law school, the medical school and now athletics, it really has never been a better time to be a golden panther and you all can claim in the near future that you were there from the beginning. We will all soon proudly wear that conductor hat driving the rest of the Miami bandwaganers who will soon jump on our train all the way to be this years Sun Belt Champs! Now it is our turn, support our boys and keep meeting my expectations FIU. Thank you MC for all that you have done and all that you are about to do.

Thank you and have a great evening.

Gold, you hit it on the money. Awesome post! What MC has done here is spectacular, but we have to expect more and demand more, just as MC is. I love the kind of attitude that he has, and the fire and passion he has for this school. I truly hope he becomes an institution here, being our coach for a very, very long time.

Heck, I say Pete signs him to a life-time contract and changes the name of Stadium Drive to Cristobal Drive!!!

Great post, Gold.....As for this first installment of his answers....wow...the way Mario answers, and preaches everything FIU is simply contagious!! I just can't wait for next season!!! Anybody not getting excited? I love the fact he speaks so candidly, answering all the questions.

You can't help but feel excited for FIU's future under Mario's leadership. The tune of some of our most rabid "anti-FIU" posters on 'rivals''boards have changed from...."FIU sucks, no wins..yada yada"....to something like...."well Mario is gone after this season, so...yada yada....."

Keep doing your thing Mario! You are now the face of FIU Athletics, and your success...and that of FIU Football, will resonate for years to come, especially if you stay with the Blue and Gold to see all these dreams come true!!

Thank you Coach, thank you Pete.
GREAT stuff. Couldn't have asked for more.

Can't wait for football season!
Gold, i couldn't agree with you more.

Good to know Mars is putting on weight & getting ready for a great year.

Proud to be an FIU golden panther

LOVE the statue idea. That would be very iconic. I can see, in the not too distant future, an ESPN Gameday camera zooming in on that very statue surrounded by rabid diehards, and yeah probably some bandwagoners too but that's ok. Let's make it happen!

Cedric Mack passed his physical and is finally working out with the team... he still needs some paperwork done, but everything seems to be going the right way.

That is another great news esteban, thanks

Great news Esteban,

Looking Forward to him shaking off the rust and claim a starting spot. I believe we would be a vastly improved line with him.

MC's answers are all reassuring! This program is headed in the right direction and has exceeded my expectations. I'm expecting an SBC title and nothing less this year. Even if we don't contend (although I strongly believe we will), the goal has to be clear if we hope to achieve it.

Great idea about the giant panther statue! And excellent response by MC regarding the toughest place to play in the SBC...it sure feels like FIU stadium fits/will fit that mold perfectly!

Esteban this is some good news tell your boy i say congrats and start cracking some heads out there!

i love the statue idea what would make it even better if you can show the panther is pounce mode and make his target an owl! lol

Awesome news with C.Mack....

from left to right the starting O-line:

Matavao, Leavine, Serini, Joe A., C-Mack

All are mature and physical legit 300 pounders.

Depth is young but looks good with Tottle, Revilla and Istanich coming in, along with Javon Hill, Cawthon, Bailey, Pena and Caraballo.

**Finally we have some depth and big boys in the stables. For 3 years, I have been saying it, this team cannot win against better competition until the OFFENSIVE & DEFENSIVE LINES BEEF UP and can become more physical. Those guys have to PLAY POSSESSED on everyone down with the mentality to DESTROY whatever is in front of them.

Great job Mario !!!

statue idea is just that, an idea... trust me.... If Pooh bear lives up to the hype.... this defense could be greatly improved... that is going to be the difference this fall sports fans.

Coach Cristobal is something else, I cannot think of many coaches who are as fired up and have the drive that he does. I am proud, to have him coaching our team, and proud of the work he continues to do.

Looking forward to a better year, hopefully we win the SBC crown this year and go bowling.

I'd like to see Cawthon on the line instead of Leavine or Alajajian. He started over Joe A. last year before he got hurt. If he's back to 100%, I'd rather have him in there. Him and Brad were never on their backs. The same cannot be said for Andy Leavine.

What MC has done may well have exceeded his own expectations. His accomplishments may have exceeded your expectations as well. The future of FIU football may indeed be looking upward. But let's not get ahead of ourselves with inflated expectations of glory to come. More exactly, let's let the process unfold the way it has thus far. All too often South Florida sports fans expect a spark of resurrection to translate into an inferno of accomplishment overnight. Every year we have the Dolphins returning to the Super Bowl after two pre-season wins. Dwayne Wade has three 30 point games and we think the Heat are headed for the NBA finals. Admit it, when the Marlins were 12-1 you had visions of another Yankee-bashing in the World series.

Let's not allow the elevated expectations voiced by the public to influence, no matter how innocently or subtly, the path of this team. But by all means, let's enjoy the show.

Could you all imagine if we would've had a coach like MC at the beginning instead of DS?
That is why FAU has a better record in the series.

Good post, E-MAN....

Also, see where T.Y. "Goodbye" Hilton was named the country's #98 College Football Player by rivals.com....

Congrats to Goodbye!!!


So get this. I’m at an alumni gig a few weeks ago and get introduced to Coach MC. He’s kind enough to indulge an FIU sports geek like me for about 15 minutes. We discuss the obvious stuff – how FIU is on the rise, TY’s da man, all the excitement around this year’s recruiting class, etc. Once I felt I may be wearing out my welcome, I say, “Hey Coach, if you’re ever in the Gables, it would be a treat to have you stop by my office. There are plenty of FIU Panthers employed where I work that would get a kick out of meeting you.”

Now how many of you are thinking “FAT CHANCE” as I did? I was just throwing out this request as a parting shot, never anticipating the guy would actually take me up on it.

You guessed it. The freakin’ guy showed up to my office the next week. Yes, he came by my office accompanied by one of his assistants. We toured our agency. I introduced him to every Panther in sight. He took pictures with us and simply energized with atmosphere with blue and gold love. True damn story.

I always knew Coach is one fired up dude, but to take this unexpected, highly appreciated step to satisfy a single alumni's request is insane.

In case you were wondering, Coach MC is the realist deal in South Florida (next to D-Wade of course).

Go Panthers!


Coach, if you’re reading this, I hope you don’t mind me sharing this story. It’s just too good not to share, especially with my friends in the GPC (Golden Panther Community).

from what he tells me i think Cedric is playing offensive guard... at least thats what he told me several months back. But he is psyched to be on his way... hopefully everything turns out right!

Great news on Cedric Mack. Way to keep working and not give up the fight! This is the first year since 2005 that I feel good about our OL going into the season.

That's pretty crazy gpantera, but I can totally picture him doing that. He's got a REAL chance to become one of the greatest icons in Soouth Florida sports history if he stays right here at home with FIU and grows this monster. There are no limits to what he can accomplish here, the growth and results here will shine brighter than anywhere else. Anywhere.

WOW. I'm am impressed by Coach's extra efforts to reach out to Alumni!

great story gpantera

Very impressive how coach MC extends his time and efforts in creating an atmosphere ripe for Golden Panthers to join the FIU Athletics's teams!! Great ambassador for FIU and us...

I guess coach MC doesn't like golf or doesn't play it often.
We are all proud of MC and maybe he can be our Joe Pa, think or dream about it, in 30 years MC coaching FIU at a full house "old" cage, or maybe a new cage with a few championships under his belt as a coach. After all remember his first game as a head coach was against Joe Pa.
Thanks Mario for your hard work, high energy and enthusiasm.

Cristobal's done an AWESOME JOB, he really has! The whole team together has done a great job! I can't wait until August and be back at FIU Stadium cheering, GO PANTHERS!!

Great story gpantera!!! I hope everyone in your office has season tickets now. Coach Cristobal has done an amazing job and best part is that it's just the beginning. He's teaching kids what it takes to win and they're buying into his program. Keep up the great work FIU coaching staff.


im going to be honest. I didnt like the MC hiring at first. Then when he continued to play Wayne Younger at QB even though he was probably the worst QB in D-1 I lost faith in him. I felt that we were 0-10 solely because of MC. At least during the 2006 fiasco we had close games and near wins. I didnt see that in 2007. I thought MC should have been fired and some people agreed with me.

since then i have come to respect him as a coach and i support him 100%. hearing stories like the one Gpantera told us makes me feel that our program is in good hands. We need alumni/ community support. MC is trying to build that support. so unless MC plays Wayne Younger at QB for the whole season. im behind him.

That's a great story gpantera, MC is all about FIU and it is contagious. I can't wait to be standing in the stadium this coming season!!

gpantera...great story! MC's definitely reaching out to alumni any which way! He's aggressive and relentless, two must-have qualities in a coach. To take time out of his busy schedule to meet-and-greet fellow FIU alumni just speaks for itself. He's passionate about what he does and what FIU football is capable of becoming. Can't wait to see this team in action this fall!!

I know we shouldn't be bashing these kids because they don't get paid to play but Wayne Younger is HORRIBLE. He does not belong at the Div-1 level.

Same lousy kicking game as last year,get a kid who did not kick his senior year in high school and had back problems. Great move staff

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