December 19, 2011

Maybe Mario

Filed under: Coaches,Football,Hire/Fire — Chas @ 8:28 am

Sorry, kind of had to take a “if you go near the computer I will kill you” day on orders from the wife. Something about the way I have ignored everyone and everything since Wednesday. Has it really only been since Wednesday around noon when all this craziness started? Seems so much longer.

Anyways, by all accounts Mario Cristobal is anywhere from the leading candidate to a done deal (h/t to Scott and several others) — but for the bowl game.

We have learned that Pitt offered the job to Mario Cristobal last night. Cristobal, we are told, asked that they pause the discussions until after FIU’s bowl game (Tuesday night). Class move.

Yes, see how well that worked out for John L. Smith and Louisville when the ESPN crawl announced he was leaving for Michigan St. during the Cards bowl game.

Of course, on Friday many had Luke Fickell the interim HC of Ohio State — also their once and maybe future DC — as being the leader in the clubhouse.

Fickell has interviewed, and just seems to be trying to keep all bridges intact.

Unless he takes the Pitt job, Fickell will return to being a Buckeyes assistant coach. Meyer said this week that Fickell will call the defensive signals, though there has not been a formal announcement that Fickell will be the defensive coordinator.

Fickell said that the last few days have been a blur and that a timetable for resolution is unclear.

“A lot of things going on,” Fickell said. “I don’t know anything more than that. I don’t know where they are or what they want to do. They’ve at least mentioned (the job) and reached out a little bit.

“But I don’t know what the situation really is. I’m not sure where they want to go yet. I don’t know what their timetable is.”

Fickell acknowledged that he spoke with Pederson “maybe Thursday.”

On Friday, Fickell was in Hershey, Pa., along with Meyer and OSU linebackers coach Mike Vrabel to see elite prospect Noah Spence play in his high school state championship game.

When Fickell accepted Meyer’s offer to be on his staff, he said he hadn’t given up on his goal to be a head coach again someday.

Noah Spence, by the way, just committed to the Buckeyes.

Paul Chryst the Wisconsin OC is known to have interviewed but went with the standard “no comment.” Chryst seems to be the distant third choice based on the buzz. That makes sense. Chryst has a lot of support from Wisconsin folks to get the job — but they would also be happy to keep him. Chryst, though, has absolutely zero reputation with recruiting. With some reports suggesting a disdain for it.

I sympathize, because recruiting does seem like an absolutely miserable thing. But it is absolutely what a head coach must do, and want to do. Luke Fickell is a really good recruiter, as is Mario Cristobal who gets labeled as “relentless” and “tireless” even by the AD at rival FAU.

Cristobal would be my first choice. He’s done a good job winning at FIU — where no one had before. He has a solid resume as an assistant and as a recruiter. He has recruited for Miami and he’s recruited for Rutgers. Plus, with Pitt’s looming move to the ACC, hiring a coach that has stronger recruiting ties in the southeast seems more logical.

Fickell wouldn’t be bad in my mind either. No question he would help in the local recruiting battles (see, Noah Spence), and he would keep Ohio State a little off-balance. When Urban Meyer came to Florida there was one assistant he held over from the Ron Zook era. A defensive coach who was considered the best recruiter on the staff — Charlie Strong.

You always worry about stepping stones but the same could be said for Luke Fickell if another Big 10 job opened up in a few years. The fact is, Pitt can’t let the fear of a coach leaving for another job be an overriding concern. There has to be some sort of faith.

@Ditka… I don’t know who any of these kids are, but here is a list of recruits Cristobal won over bigger name institutions while at FIU… And he’s recruiting at FIU which barely had a program 5-6 years ago.

Giovani Francois- Louisville
Elijah Maxey- Illinois, Duke
Aaron Nielsen- Kansas
Denzell Perine- Minnesota
Derrick Thorpe- Arkansas
Corey Tindal- Maryland, Minnesota, Toledo
Ezekiel Turner- West Virginia
Cedric Walker- Cincinnati, Kansas State, UCF
Glenn Coleman- Colorado, Southern Miss, Tulsa
Jerry Baker- Northwestern
Marques Cheeks- Kansas, Kansas State, Minnesota, Mississippi State
Davison Colimon- SMU
Denzel Conyers- UConn
Marcus Gilchrist- Kentucky, Purdue
Delmar Taylor- South Florida
Favian Upshaw- Illinois
Justin Halley- Vanderbilt
Greg Hickman- Iowa State, Purdue, South Florida
Richard Leonard- South Florida
Jake Medlock- Arkansas, Virginia, Miami, FL
Kedrick Rhodes- Iowa, Kansas State, Northwestern
Willis Wright- Auburn, Mississippi, Nebraska, Purdue, Rutgers, South Florida, Tennessee, Central Florida, West Virginia
Derrick Jones, Jr.- Colorado State
Darian Mallary- Iowa, Mississippi State
Larvez Mars- Iowa State, Cincinnati, Kentucky, South Florida, Central Florida
Thatcher Starling- Arizona
Terrance Taylor- Rutgers, South Florida, Central Florida
Edgar Theliar- San Diego State, South Florida, Hawaii
Derrick Clark- Arkansas, Purdue, South Florida
Troy Dannehower- South Florida
A.J. Grant- Illinois, Purdue, Miami, FL
James Jones- South Florida
Cedrick Mack- Arizona, South Florida, Oregon State, Washington State, Kansas State, Kentucky, Southern Miss

Comment by Pitt89 12.19.11 @ 2:05 pm

Top 150 player recruited to FIU which is unheard of link to

Comment by humza 12.19.11 @ 2:05 pm

@ EMel… or I could just cut and paste it for him

Comment by Pitt89 12.19.11 @ 2:06 pm

sorry 2010 class

Comment by humza 12.19.11 @ 2:07 pm

How is Fickell seasoned after on year as a head coach of a dysfunctional season? Cristobal is seasoned with 5 years of head coaching experience and has a bigger reputation of a recruiter than Fickell does…and he plays a style that will fit well in the ACC.

Comment by Tossing Thabeets 12.19.11 @ 12:53 pm

Exactly, Tossing, this is a no brainer.

Factoring in, HC experience, recruiting, building something out of nothing. What’s to build at Ohio State? (I mean get real) and the fact this guy has connections in Florida, where PITT has had great success getting high profile players.
There is no choice here for Smiley to screw up.

Even for him!! (again this does not guarantee this guy is going to be a success, but it’s the logical choice of the 3 main candidates)

Comment by EMel 12.19.11 @ 2:12 pm

lol Pitt89….

love it !

Comment by EMel 12.19.11 @ 2:13 pm

Anyway I believe this could be all settled anyway.

You don’t offer the job unless you know the guy is going to accept the offer. That’s the way this stuff is done, much like the conference realignment stuff. The ACC wouldn’t offer a invite to PITT, unless they already knew PITT would accept it.

It’s all about not looking bad, saving face, whatever.

Get ready for the Beef O’ Brady Bowl tomorrow night gents. In the bowl we thought we’d be in and actually wanted to be in.


Comment by EMel 12.19.11 @ 2:21 pm

Looks like some good recruits that he pulled from other schools but I also noticed that in both 2010 and 2011 FIU ranked 2nd in recruiting rankings behind Western Kentucky in the Sun Belt.

Comment by Coach Ditka 12.19.11 @ 2:23 pm

Who in the ACC could beat Wisconsin this year or over the last five years.
Comment by DRW 12.19.11 @ 11:51 am

Aaaaa, didn’t Wisconsin have a 5th year QB from a middling ACC team (one Russell Wilson) that made them such an offensive juggernaut this year?

And I don’t have the time to research this at the moment, but TCU of the Mountain West beat Wisconsin last year and Arizona State (yeah Sleazoid’s new home) should have beat them in Madison last year and they stunk. So I would say several ACC teams could have beat Wisconsin, beginning with Va Tech, Clemson, Miami trashed OSU this year and OSU beat Wisconsin and FSU could have beaten them as well. Why, because while some these teams didn’t have 10 or 11 win seasons, they have speed. And we all know based on SEC/Big 10 matchups in Bowl games…..speed kills.

Comment by EMel 12.19.11 @ 2:32 pm

@ Coach Ditka,

If you combine getting some of the local top kids in Western Pa, Eastern Ohio and the rest of PA and maybe NJ a little, WITH 5-10 per year from Florida. We could have a nice recruiting haul every year. If you’ve noticed the last 5-7 years WVU is pulling a lot of kids out of Florida, which is why they seem to always have more speed than us.

And in Florida, even the 2-3 star kids can be very good players. Take for example, Greg Romeus and Antonio Bryant. You don’t have to get the 4-5 star kids in Florida to get some real players.

Just sayin.

Comment by EMel 12.19.11 @ 2:39 pm

We don’t have an Urban Meyer or Nick Sabin on the short list.
So there is a great deal of risk with any of the three canidates. The powers that be at Pitt are picking from a pool of guys that this is a big opportunity for.

Comment by Justinian 12.19.11 @ 2:41 pm

@EMel Wisconsin’s offense has ranked in the top 5 the last 2 years with 2 different QBs at the helm. Not exactly a “3 yards and a cloud of dust” type offense.

“As far as Wisconsin, so they won the Big 10 in a down year for the league. Yea, they won it because they were lucky enough to pick up Russell Wilson from NC State to play QB for a year.”

Luck? Do you think Russell Wilson threw a dart at the wall? There is a reason why he chose Wisconsin and it directly reflects on their staff and game plan.

I don’t doubt the importance of having FL, TX or NJ recruiting ties, but I have no assurance that MC is going to land the 4 star FL recruits Pitt needs to compete for ACC titles.

At the end of the day, I’ll sleepy well enough with either three of these candidates. It’s always going to be a gamble. I just don’t see this decision as a no brainer for Mario.

Comment by Nabil 12.19.11 @ 2:44 pm

Emel I agree. Walt pulled lots of talent in his days from Florida as well which actually gets back to another point that you dont have to be Mr Personality to get kids to come play for you. Walt had a ton of NFL caliber players and we all know he wasn’t exactly the life of the party.

I really cant put a finger on it but something about Cristobal just doesn’t seem to fit.

Comment by Coach Ditka 12.19.11 @ 2:46 pm

Agree with Panter13 and Frankcan we are looking at 3 good guys – no need to rip any of them apart.

I still prefer Luke Fickell (as I prefered Tom B. last year at this time!) mainly because of their reputation for great defense.

Tressel ball was successful because of Fickel’s defense. Luke played noseguard and he was a top-caliber wrestler – he is a tough, clean cut guy.

I agree he did look like a deer in the headlights but understanding the situation he was handed this past year what stand-up guy wouldn’t have looked that way.

I don’t know Cristobel or FIU’s history – doesn’t make hime bad – it seems like an unlikely fit culturally.

I vote for the nose guard, wrestler, clean cut guy from 2.5 hours away. Defense wins championships.

Comment by Mill 12.19.11 @ 2:49 pm

You might be right Coach Ditka.

It’s always a crap shoot.

I met Walt, the first time was at the Civic Arena before The City Game. We shared the elevator up to the Pvt. Boxes. He seemed like a real guy, no bs and was quite friendly. Of course he might have thought I was somebody he needed to be friendly too, but I don’t think he was like that.

Comment by EMel 12.19.11 @ 2:51 pm

Regardless, I hope a decision is made in the next few days, before we start getting decommitment headlines

Comment by Nabil 12.19.11 @ 2:51 pm

We would have to think if Fickell was the man then they would have just named him the guy. Chryst too!

With Mario preparing to coach in the game tomorrow night it just seems obvious that its him. Pitt doesnt want to look sleazey naming before the game to upset the fan base and their current players. I’m going with Cristobal until proven otherwise.

However, I still prefer Fickell by a trickle over Mario!

Comment by QuipScript 12.19.11 @ 3:00 pm

Cristobal built a program at FIU from nothing. Sorry to say, but that is where PITT is at right now. Nothing…

Comment by Pittastic 12.19.11 @ 3:14 pm


Sorry guy, maybe I’m wrong, before this year and even to an extent this year, Wisky was always known as a rush first team and produced some prolific rushers. Montee Ball this year and they had several other big RB’s the last several years.
John Clay, Anthony Davis, Brain Calhoun, & PJ Hill come to mind.

“Last year, as a team, the Badgers ranked second in the nation in rushing touchdowns with 48, and 12th in rushing yards with 3194. Wisconsin’s 5.47 yards per attempt was 7th best in the NCAA. Obviously Wisconsin boasts one of the top ground attacks in the country, year-in and year-out.”

“Run-heavy offenses have long defined the Big Ten, and the conference has produced several fine running backs in the last decade. Many of these backs came from Wisconsin, a program that identifies with the power running game perhaps more than any other in the NCAA.”

Those are two excerpts from Wisky’s SB Nation pages.

Not that I don’t like Power running games, we had that with Wanny. I don’t think that will work in the ACC. As I posted a couple of days ago, Pitt had a power running team in 2009, our best team in 30 years at PITT. At least the first since 1982 to win 10 games. We lost that year to a middling or worse ACC team that was 2-6 in the ACC, you should remember, cause NC State’s QB was Russel Wilson. We also struggle mightily to beat another middling ACC team who was 4-4 in the ACC that year, that was UNC in the Meineke Bowl.

So mind you this was PITT’s best team in 30 years, that used a power running game with Dion Lewis rushing for 1800 yards and we lost to a 2-6 ACC team and struggled to win on a last second FG with a 4-4 ACC team. Why, well imo both of these middling ACC teams still had a lot more speed at most EVERY position than Pitt. In the old days you could go down south and out physical them as we did in the middle 70’s and early 1980’s.

You can’t do that anymore, they have just as big and just as strong players in the trenches as we do in the North. Perhaps even stronger. Hate to say that, but imo it’s true.

Comment by EMel 12.19.11 @ 3:23 pm

Cristobal pretty much built the program at FIU. Cryst did ot build the program at Wisconsin … big difference.

I have no idea who the better coach will be, or if both would be a bust … it’s a crapshoot, which is before you fire a coach, you better have a darn good idea that you can improve

Comment by wbb 12.19.11 @ 3:24 pm

Great point wbb – wonder what was running through SP’s mind when he fired Wanny.

After reading the Steelers article I believe now more than ever it it time:

Move the Forbes quad to Panther Hollow.

New Stadium next to the Catheral.


Comment by Mill 12.19.11 @ 3:29 pm

Regardless, I hope a decision is made in the next few days, before we start getting decommitment headlines

Comment by Nabil 12.19.11 @ 2:51 pm

Agree with that.
I think according to what I read, that are sticking together. Voytik and the others are talking with each other and seem committed to PITT.


Comment by EMel 12.19.11 @ 3:30 pm

wbb, you liked wanny, mr. mediocre, we get it, give it a rest.

Comment by scott 12.19.11 @ 3:37 pm

You know this might all work out for us.

Any of these guys is better than Graham. Certainly it’s better we found out sooner, rather than later about Sleazoid.

Sleazoid might have been better had we joined the Big 12 ala WVU since his base is in Texas. But since we didn’t and we’re headed to the ACC, it’s a good thing.

Plus the Steelers hated the guy, as did the people, who I know personally, over at the Pittsburgh Steak Company where Sleazo did his weekly radio show from. Not that any of this, is an end all but it shows something about this person’s real demeanor.

Comment by EMel 12.19.11 @ 3:46 pm

It’s over.

I have finally seen the Mutually Beneficial Arrangements girl. NICE!

Comment by Tony in Harrisburg 12.19.11 @ 3:47 pm

QuipScript there it is right in front of our face.
good call i should have seen it it is mario. and this way if he says no than thay can name fickell and not lose face.
Imy self am torn between the two i see fickell as a 8 wins a year coach one he gets his feet under him with maybe a 9 win season once in the wile but staying 8 or 10 yrars.

I see mario haveing a 8 win season the first year and 10 or 11 the third year then leaveing and
we have go thru this all over agein.
for me that is a hard pick.

Comment by FRANKCAN 12.19.11 @ 3:48 pm

@EMel – Some good points there. Can’t argue the downward trend of a Big 10 offense. I don’t think Pitt can rebound solely on the backs of a power rushing attack. Competing in the ACC will require speed and the spread utilizes that.

GA Tech is moderately successful with the triple option though, so a solid running game can be tailored for the ACC. I’m not advocating that for Pitt. Just being contrary for the sake of being contrary at this point, haha.

Comment by Nabil 12.19.11 @ 4:00 pm

I don’t care who the coach is, nobody’s winning 8 games with Tino at QB.

Fickell stays until the Ohio State job comes open. Or maybe if something middling Big-10 that is fairly close to Columbus opens up (IU would be the only thing I can think of…). With Meyer that could be 3 years, it could be 5. It might be 10, but I doubt Urban will stay in the game that long.

But yea Frankcan, I see the same scenario with Cristoball…if his wife doesn’t badger him into leaving Pitt. God, the cultural fit is just sooo bad.

Comment by Baltimore in '84 12.19.11 @ 4:07 pm

If we went budget neutral on the Sunseri’s, I’d trade Tino for Sal..just make sure he has a good OC with him — he might even bring back the Script and cut off jerseys.

Comment by Matt N. 12.19.11 @ 4:31 pm

Matt – you might as well take Vinnie Sunseri while you’re at it. He has potential.

Comment by Nabil 12.19.11 @ 4:45 pm

For the MC camp out there:

From FIU blog:

A few words from the president…
Post Beef O’ Brady’s Bowl luncheon, after talking to FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg about the impact bowls and the football program have had on the school’s visibility, I asked him if the Pitt rumors were unsettling and has Mario Cristobal told him that he would be FIU’s coach next year?

He replied, “I’d rather not comment on that. All I can say is I think it goes with the turf. When your’e successful, everybody loves you. So, I think that’s a great thing. But, the particulars, I’m focused. I’m focused.”

For what it’s worth…

link to


Comment by DaveD 12.19.11 @ 5:03 pm

My preference for the position is:

1. The Mutually Benefical girl

2. Jessica Cristobal

Comment by Justinian 12.19.11 @ 6:18 pm

Comment by scoocher 12.19.11 @ 9:57 pm

It does go with the turf as the FIU President indicates so eloquently. That is why, as an Administrator, you target a coach and go after him, regardless of paper obligations. I almost called them contracts, but they really aren’t because they get broken constantly.

Why doesn’t smiley identify a big name, go after a proven commodity, and loosen the purse strings? Oh, that would additional paranoia on his part over his own ability to do his job. He just won an internal power struggle against Wannstedt in a squeaker and feels he is best protected by bringing in someone with less experience than what the university deserves in order to protect his paycheck. That thinking is outdated. Get with the times smiley. Administrators nowadays, hire the best, regardless of cost (to an extent)and then conquer. Pitt will always be third tier in the athletic world because we don’t commit to being the best, by hiring the best. First example, our AD.

And the Cristobal recruits against other schools argument list…Really? The couple of nice recruits were caught up in the numbers games at the respective large institutions and with the other two star prospects, the coach beat out the bethune cookmans and marshalls for Florida talent. I am not pooh pooing sir Cristobal, just correcting the data share. Right now, we need a keeper as a coach and we need to drop some dead weight in the AD.

Comment by dhuffdaddy 12.19.11 @ 10:54 pm


The problem with your suggestion is that it takes 2 to tango. Pitt could offer Mick Saban $10 million, who thinks he would accept it to coach at Pitt? I think Saban would use the offer as leverage to get a raise.

This is the same thinking that Pirate fans have – “Why don’t the Bucs sign Albert Puljos?” He’s NEVER going to sing with the Bucs.

Much like the Pirates, Pitt cannot compete with the big boys of college football. We have to take a different approach. That’s not an excuse for Pitt being so bad for so long, but we cannot use the approach that tOSU or PSU can take.

Comment by ME 2001 12.19.11 @ 11:27 pm


Here is the most telling quote of that little article…

“Pitt underachieves routinely.”

How about hiring someone that cause Pitt to OVERachieve – just once! If that means he’ll be gone after 3 years, I’ll take it.

Comment by ME 2001 12.19.11 @ 11:32 pm

ME2001 you mean PSU used to be able to take they our on the way down and will be under PITTwho is on the way up.
PSU will soon be known as a has been the pit of the big 10 wonderfull isent it.
i must go to bed now i am in my cups

Dominus Cimentarius
vertas et virtus

Comment by FRANKCAN 12.19.11 @ 11:45 pm


As much as I love to see the fall of PSU, I don’t believe they will be down for 25 years. Do you expect PSU to a) look for a young up-and-coming coach or b) throw millions of dollars at a name coach?

They may give the job to some body until the the majority of the scandal blows over – like Fickell did at tOSU – then go after anybody they want to.

Comment by ME 2001 12.20.11 @ 12:22 am

@ME – I don’t like to argue because in all seriousness, everyone on here wants Pitt to win. That said, how do we now know how coaches will act if we become the aggressor and loosen the purse strings? I disagree with your premise and perhaps it is just a bad example. You mention that the pirates wouldn’t sign pujols if they offered him the moon and vice versa. Well, florida offered the moon and he took it. Is florida a better franchise than the pirates? Really?

Not only did florida pay pujols, they paid big bucks for other talent to support him. Why? Because they have a five year plan to build a new stadium and they want marquis players there to take full advantage of the situation.

Pitt, thanks to an AD that can’t think two years ahead, will never be comfortable enough to make the offers to current big time coaches. Why not? Paranoid AD would potentially lose a power struggle with the Chancellor. You don’t actually know who is interested until you try. A great AD that actually makes contacts and nurtures relationships with many coaches can do those things. SP is cheap. He only gives raises when his good coaches get mentioned for new jobs (see dixon several times). When will Sir Nordenberg figure it out? Probably not until after he retires.

I am not buying 8 or 9 win seasons when smiley promised championships and next level if we supported his plan. Well, he has no plan, because you can’t execute a plan when you have a coaching carousel. Who can buy into the plan? A gullible Chancellor, that’s who.

Comment by dhuffdaddy 12.20.11 @ 1:27 am

Gheeezus. Todd And Penni Graham have completely destroyed just about everyone on this blog. We’re poo pooing coaches because they “GASP” might not want to coach Pitt until they die. And we are making borderline racist comments about the cultural inability of a woman, whose name we didn’t even know two weeks ago, to support her husband wherever his profession takes him.


Comment by Cnorwood 12.20.11 @ 2:01 am


I’ll agree with you on this point – there is no hurt in TRYING. What I hear from some Pitt fans is that just throwing a lot of money at a coach is the solution to our troubles. We cannot do things this way.

Pujols did not go to Florida, he’s with the Angles now. The point is that Pujols, when given the freedom to chose ANY team to play with, would not choose the Pirates, the Royals, the Indians, etc. Those teams stink and no amount of money would attract him to them.

The Marlins ARE a better team than the Bucs. They have won the WS, tore the franchise down, and built it back into a WS team TWICE during the Pirate 19 year streak. I would say the Marlins are more like the Cincinnati Bearcats, they have been through sevaral coaching changes but have been able to win the BE several times. Meanwhile Pitt is looking for head coach #6 in a 13 month span.

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