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Cristobal's return to Miami surprising, but a very good thing

Although no one at the University of Miami has announced it as official yet, Mario Cristobal has been hired as the program's new tight ends coach and associate head coach.

For Cristobal, who was fired as FIU coach last month, it's yet another Hurricane homecoming. This will be his fourth stint with the program. He won two national championships as an offensive lineman in 1989 and 1991; was a graduate assistant at Miami from 1998 through 2000; and returned as an assistant coach from 2004 through 2006.

Smart move for the Canes? Absolutely. With pending NCAA sanctions hanging over head and the possibility that coach Al Golden could always bolt if the right job opens up, Miami has hired someone who loves the program beyond belief and will not only step in as coach should Golden leave, but help the Canes battle through the rough times.

Cristobal's addition will instantly be a major help for Miami in recruiting, particularly in South Florida. He's always had strong ties to all of the region's top high school programs, and recruited all parts of talent-rich Florida extensively when he was at FIU.

Are some surprised he took this job? Yes. According to someone close to Cristobal, he was seriously considering taking an assistant NFL job with Greg Schiano and the Tampa Bay Bucs. While the UM job had been discussed for more than a week I've been told, some one close to him believed Cristobal was leaning toward the NFL.

Ultimately, Golden, who always had a good relationship with Cristobal, did enough to convince him to join the staff at Miami. Defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio, who coached with Cristobal at Rutgers (2001-02), also had to have played a role making Cristobal feel comfortable. D'Onofrio has the title of assistant head coach at Miami.