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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.

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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