Well, didn't hit the lottery. In fact, missed it by so much, I should get a few bucks for it -- you know, rent on Mediterranean Avenue -- because it's almost as hard missing by as much as I did as it is getting three of six.
So, bleary-eyed, not-busy-tailed, eating my large slice of bacon pizza from Pizza Rustica and sucking down some cold caffiene, I pound out this last post before heading for bed. Or a few minutes of Dave Brubeck (RIP).
The national shocked reaction to Mario Cristobal's firing, not from fans but from media, ADs and coaches tells you how FIU's 2012 season was viewed to those with more than a facile eye. This wasn't a Gene Chizik or Joker Phillips, sinking for a few years and being jettisoned before the boat sinks in shark-infested waters. This was a bad day writ large. What should work doesn't. Bad things that shouldn't happen do. What isn't messed up by someone else or just the vicissitudes of the universe, you mess up yourself.
Cristobal's not blameless nor is the staff. Everybody gets a piece of 3-9 cowpie. But rarely is there a single person or facet that plunges you to that level. Fans want a single shooter to blame. Get the Oswald and life's back to rainbows and Kit-Kats. But that's not life on or off the field.
If Mitch McCluggage stays perfect on long snaps; if Jack Griffin stays perfect on extra points; if Willis Wright doesn't get stripped at the goal line by Western Kentucky safety Jonathan Dowling on the gadget pass bomb; If freshman E.J. Hilliard fumbles one fewer time against Louisiana-Monroe; we're talking about a bowl today. And there's no difference in the actual coaching. That's why coaches are control freaks about the things they can control -- there's so much they can't in this business of getting young men aged 18-to-22 to do the right things as a group.
(Continued Thursday morning from the Miami Country Day School Parents Association meeting after I went facedown on my keyboard last night...)
Anyway, this says relationship between Pete Garcia and Mario Cristobal came into play. Garcia hired Cristobal, but soon after, their relationship began to cool. By last winter, it was that forgotten pot roast in the back of Grandma's freezer since 2009. A couple of Camp Mitch sources say Garcia had little involvement in retaining Cristobal after the Pitt or Rutgers flirtations. And said flirtations doubtlessly annoyed Garcia as he might have to swing into action to find quickly a new El Jefe for his highest profile, only-thing-close-to-revenue-producing sport.
Then again, the football budget hadn't budged much over the last five years despite the program's success. Even before the collapses, this season's attendance was disappointing, which is under Garcia's umbrella. And Cristobal's stature within FIU continued to grow the longer he stayed. Combine that with his relationship with Garcia and he's a potential power threat to Garcia in his own department.
When there's a Cold War with your supervisor, don't misstep or the door opens to being booted out. And 3-9's a misstep.
Right now, it looks rash. Whether or not it's ultimately judged to be the right move depends on what follows. If you pull a wildcat divorce on your wife and wind up with the other woman for the next 40 years, you made the right move. If, three years later, you're eating Spam and paying two alimonies, you should've stayed with your first woman.
Butch Davis' name, of course, popped up and he fits the Garcia MO of big splash. But Davis left North Carolina just ahead of the NCAA and FIU just finished flushing the NCAA violations out of its system.
Why would Davis come to FIU? The same reason anyone with a broadcast primetime past goes basic cable series -- cleansing the name or rebuilding a reputation for quality work. Also, it's a chance to do what they do. Hall of Fame NFL coach George Allen finished his coaching life at Long Beach State.
With that in mind, here's a couple of other guys I thought of:
Joker Phillips – After a bowl appearance in 2010 at the University of Kentucky, the SEC devoured Phillips. But Conference USA isn’t the SEC. Phillips background as a skill position assistant and offensive coordinator fits FIU's talent pool. Though he just took the University of Florida receivers coach/recruiting coordinator job, surely his contract has an out for a head coaching chance. FIU pay would be three steps down from his Kentucky salary, but a step up from that of a UF assistant.
Jeff Tedford – I have no idea if Tedford would want to leave Califronia for South Florida. Or, if he even wants to be a head coach again so soon or at all. But this one has intrigue. Tedford available after being fired from Califronia-Berkeley and, possibly, cheap. The remainder of his Cal-Berkeley deal, which runs through 2015, guarantees him $1.8 million per year. What another head job pays him is just that much less of the $1.8 million that Cal has to pay. FIU could pay him $300,000 and it makes no difference to Tedford's bank account. And he can coach college offenses.