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Cristobal fired; Butch next?

FIU fired head football coach Mario Cristobal after six seasons Wednesday, the last of which was a 3-9 season after FIU was the preseason favorite for the Sun Belt title. FIU heads into Conference USA next season.

"It was based on going 3-9 this year with 30 seniors and what was supposed to be his best team," FIU athletic director Pete Garcia told The Herald. "He's done a very good job for this program, but we've gone backwards over the last year and a half. Over the last 22 games, we've gone 8-14."

That's a reference to FIU's record after a 3-0 start in 2011 that included wins over eventual Big East champion Louisville and defending Conference USA champion Central Florida. This year, Garcia said, FIU's wins were over 1-11 Akron; rebuilding FAU; and South Alabama, in their first year of FBS competition.

Garcia can be temperamental and his relationship with Cristobal the past few years could be called "strained," if you want to be very generous. Cristobal several times made public reference to not being fully aware of the coming NCAA sanctions when he took the job. Also, sources at Camp Mitch said Garcia told a group of boosters before this year's regular season game against Troy that, though this season hadn't gone as planned, changes would be made after the season. Upon hearing that a week or two later, Cristobal almost exploded. His worry wasn't for himself, but for his assistants, who he felt it was his province to handle.

But I don't think Garcia swings a wrecking ball without plans for the next building. Butch Davis is a name, just as Isiah Thomas was a name and even Richard Pitino is a name (a last name, at least). Davis and Garcia go back a ways. Garcia said he hasn't talked to Davis or anyone about the job. 

This comes 12 months after FIU played in its second consecutive bowl game in only its seventh year of FBS play and in the fifth year after Cristobal took over a NCAA sanction-ridden program that had gone winless in 2006. The team went to bowls in 2010 and 2011 after 6-6 and 8-4 regular seasons, the only two regular seasons at or above .500 in FIU's 11 seasons. That earned Cristobal attention from the University of Pittsburgh after the 2010 and 2011 seasons. Rutgers was ready to hire Cristobal in February. But he chose the current happiness he and his family experienced living on South Beach and working near the neighborhood where he was raised.

Cristobal's overall record was 27-47.

This year, FIU wasn't helped by losing starting quarterback Jake Medlock to injury, forcing true freshman E.J. Hilliard to start three games against bowl teams and play the second half against Sugar Bowl-bound Louisville. FIU lost two games on last minute scores and another in overtime. Starting running back Kedrick Rhodes spent most of the season with two sprained ankles.

Still, when Medlock was healthy, offense rarely proved to be a problem compared to defense and special teams, expected to be the backbone of a team that received Top 25 votes in the preseason coaches poll. Those two units failed spectacularly with several fumbled returns, three missed extra points, three bad punt snaps leading to two opposing touchdowns and a safety and the defense ranking 67th in total defense and 90th in scoring defense despite returning 21 of 22 on the two-deep roster from the No. 16 scoring defense in 2011.

Senior defensive end Tourek Williams came on late in the season to earn First Team All-Sun Belt honors, as did senior safety Johnathan Cyprien. Senior offensive tackle Caylin Hauptmann was Second Team All-Sun Belt.

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What the heck?????????????

Has to be more to this than the record...This is FIU, not Texas.

What in the hell.

There is definitely a lot more than just W-L here. This athletic program is lacking leadership at the top. If you followed this team the last few years, the coaches have worked miracles with limited resources and support. If you are going to take all the credit and accept all the accolades for any successes you have, the responsibility of their shortcomings and failures should fall squarely on the shoulders of the athletic director. How many coaches are they going to have to fire before someone higher up figures this out?

Short sighted idiots.

Enjoy whatever Sunbelt position coach you find to replace him.

I'm a bit shocked he was fired, there must be more to the story. If not I disagree with the move.

Shocking, to say the least. Particularly when he was given an extension and raise last year, which makes this firing that more expensive.

Mario gave his heart and soul to this program and to FIU. His dedication and passion were always present and I know he will land somewhere soon. To him, as a dedicated FIU fan: Thank you Mario!

I can now understand why Pete Garcia was never hired at UM for the AD job, as this was a terrible move on his part. Hope UM can find a way to hire Mario as an assistant until he can get another HC position.

bring in Nick Saban!!

OMG what?! This is such a shocker! Cristobal did so much for the program! :o

Looks like DJN was blind-sided by this as well. He's got nothing.

Rumor is that Butch Davis is in line to be the next coach, that is why the move to fire Mario.

Thanks for everything Mario! I'll be happy with Coley or butch!

Rumors had Cristobal as front runner for coaching job at USF. Maybe AD realized we arn't keeping this guy might as well cut him loose. Still kinda shocking. Cristobal was a good exciting young coach but 3-9 is very unacceptable for a team who had so many returning seniors. His playcalling became predictable.

paw paw claw claw. I know you. LOL!

This is an absolute error and a stupid move by FIU

This is a complete shocker! It came out of nowhere. This is really sad, I feel bad for Cristobal. After all he did for our program. I'll miss his enthusiasm. He was one of us.

The Herald should learn to check their articles for grammar errors:

"FIU fired after head football coach Mario Cristobal six seasons Wednesday, the last of which was a 3-9 season after FIU was the preseason favorite for the Sun Belt title."

REALLY? FIU FIRED?

I will no longer be purchasing season tickets. What a dumb decision.

This was surprising to me , but he won't last long on the open market . Wish him luck .

Garcia is a clueless loser. There is much more to this story that I am sure will come out in the near future. I don't feel terribly bad for Mario, his talents will find him a great opportunity.

Surprising move. Only makes sense if PG has Butch ready to go.

I'm renewing ...all about FIU!

Thank you MC, you led us to our first Bowl victory and we'll never forget that. I will be rooting for you wherever you go!

Butch Davis?

How the mighty have fallen, it'd make sense if he was just trying to get back in the college game after his banishment but why would FIU jettison a coach who wants to be there for a bigger name who just wants to use the position as a stepping stone?

Only explanation would be that Butch Davis wants to stick around and build FIU football for half a mill a year, which would be phenomenal news for FIU but a major downgrade from his last job, paying $2.25M a year.

Seems to be no doubt MC is a solid citizen, but he was no innovator, no game day coach. Maybe at the next place he lands there will be enough cash to surround him with coordinators who can call plays and leave him to the business of recruiting, in-house management, etc. MC brought a level of professionalism to the program, but I still say the main reason for those two decent seasons was the presence of TY Hilton. FIU has been one-deep at most positions (and not even that in some spots) beyond wideout and running back, but that is the case with most Sun Belt and like-conference teams. Innovation, the occasional star, and luck generally elevates teams at this level, rarely the coaching (though ours did not distinguish themselves this year). Too bad Strock wasn't allowed to take snaps when he was here.

I hope coach Cristobal gets another chance. He was definitely behind the 8-ball at the beginning at FIU and he did a good job at making the team relevant.

Butch would be a great hire for FIU, I wish the Golden Panthers the best...

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