As the seconds ticked away at Wallace Wade Stadium, the visiting Miami Hurricanes bullied the Duke Blue Devils 47-10.
The beleaguered Hurricanes Head Coach Manny Diaz navigated his team from a 2-4 start to win 5 of his final 6 games to get to 7-5. A team that had preseason expectations being ranked as high as 14th and disappointment being the narrative of Diaz’s three seasons, led to his abrupt dismissal on December 6th.
Miami’s administration was seeking to get its program to meet and exceed the lofty expectations that is set by their alumni, fans, and community.
Enter Mario Cristobal
Miami President Julio Frenk realized he needed to reboot a once proud program.
Miami since the 40-3 embarrassment in the 2005 Chick Fil-A Peach Bowl against LSU achieve the following low lights:
- 12-45 record versus Power 5 teams that finished with 9 or more wins
- 6-11 versus top rival Florida State (3 of those wins are against FSU with a losing record and the other 3 wins are against FSU teams that finished 7-6 each year)
- 13-33 record versus ranked opponents
Miami back in 2016 went to another Miami alum to resurrect the Hurricanes program, Mark Richt.
It was during the 2017 season where Richt had Miami closest to sounding off Hurricane Warnings to the nation, when Miami started 10-0. An upset loss to Pitt kicked off a downward spiral where the Canes would go 7-9.
Richt would abruptly retire after the 2018 season; later Richt would reveal he is suffering from Parkinson’s Disease.
Miami would promote defensive coordinator Manny Diaz to head coach.
Diaz never lived up to the expectations and the details of how Frenk, Miami Administration Chief of Staff Rudy Fernandez determined when to terminate Diaz offered very little on how a frugal program Miami was able to poach Mario Cristobal from Oregon where they seemingly have unlimited resources from their relationship with Oregon alum Phil Knight and Nike.
Said Fernandez of the Cristobal hiring process, "We have tremendous appreciation for Manny Diaz but a unique opportunity presented itself to hire someone we believe is one of the very best people in what he does in coach Cristobal. That window of opportunity opened very quickly and it was going to close very quickly.”
Cristobal said of his return to Miami on December 6, “I’m honored and humbled. Words can’t describe. This is strong. This hits as hard as it can hit. What an honor. ... My god, what an honor.”
Dan Radakovich Follows Cristobal
Last year, on December 8th, the University of Miami made shockwaves across the nation when it named from Clemson Athletic Director Dan Radakovich the 14th Director of Athletics in Miami history.
Radakovich, who received his MBA from the University of Miami Business School in 1982, left a program in Clemson where he was one of the foundational pieces to the Clemson Dynasty.
Radakovich, who began as AD in 2012, oversaw at Clemson unparalleled football success with the program as the Tigers won 10+ games every season, appeared in 8 New Year’s Six Bowls, won 6 ACC Conference Championships, appeared in 4 College Football Playoff National Championship Games winning 2 National Championships.
Radakovich coordinated significant facilities improvements and enhancements at Clemson.
During his tenure, Clemson invested nearly $180 million on projects that involved Littlejohn Coliseum, Reeves Football Operations Complex, Duckworth Tennis Center, Baseball Operations Facility, and a new softball stadium.
Radakovich to leave a program like Clemson had to be a situation that meant something to him, and there was a serious commitment from a potential.
With Miami already securing Mario Cristobal, with Radakovich’s connections to Miami, Radakovich said in statement, “I am so grateful to President [Julio] Frenk and the University's Board of Trustees for this incredible opportunity. Their commitment to Miami Athletics' comprehensive pursuit of excellence and championships is what brought me back to Miami. As a unified Hurricane family -- students, alumni, donors, and fans -- there is nothing that we cannot accomplish. We are going to set the bar high and jump over it."
Mario Cristobal’s connections to Miami are well documented. A Miami native, he was a standout offensive lineman at Christopher Columbus High School in Miami.
He committed to play for Miami in 1988 where he was a 4-year letterman under Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erickson where he was part of 2 National Championship teams in 1989 and 1991.
Cristobal got his coaching start in Miami as a GA from 1998-2000 and had a second stint as an offensive line and tight ends coach from 2004 to 2006.
His first head coaching gig was also in Miami-Dade County, but over in University Park at Florida International University where he led the Panthers to their first two bowl games in program history.
Cristobal’s next stop was to the University of Alabama where he served as Assistant Head Coach, Offensive Line Coach, and Recruiting Coordinator from 2013-2016. During Cristobal’s tenure in Tuscaloosa, he won a National Championship in 2015, was National Recruiter of the year by 247 Sports in 2015, oversaw recruiting in Florida for Nick Saban, and was integral part of securing commitments of Minkah Fitzpatrick and Calvin Ridley.
While leading the Crimson Tide's offensive line, his group was recognized as the first recipient of the Joe Moore Award, awarded to the nation’s top offensive line unit. He went to become an Offensive Coordinator at Oregon in 2017, his tenure as Offensive Coordinator was cut short due to the abrupt departure of Willie Taggart to Florida State. Cristobal was promoted to head coach where he served the past 4 seasons.
During that time, Cristobal was 35-13, led Oregon to back to back Pac-12 Championships in 2019 and 2020, and secured a Rose Bowl victory in 2020 edition against Wisconsin.
What To Watch Out For
The hype train for Cristobal’s return is real. 247 Sports recently named Cristobal in its Top 5 coaches that should win their first national championship soon.
He comes in with a solid foundation, his strength will be in the quarterback room with pre-season Heisman candidate Tyler Van Dyke. He is backed up by blue-chip recruit Jake Garcia. New offensive coordinator Josh Gattis will have a lot to work with developing these quarterbacks. However, he have to see who steps up to become the No. 1 wide receiver.
On defense, youth was served in 2021 as the Hurricanes defense was very inexperienced. Once they developed chemistry, it was key in their upset of ACC Champion Pitt. Look out for a secondary that showed some depth with Kamren Kinchens, Avantae Williams, James Williams, and Tyrique Stevenson.
Another player to keep an eye on is former 5-star defensive tackle Leonard Taylor who had a good freshman season in 2021, and will look to take the next step in his development.
Coming on campus is EDGE rusher Cyrus Moss from Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas who was ranked in the Top 10 Nationally in his position and Jaleel Skinner from IMG who was the No.3 tight end at his position.
As of this writing, the University of Miami is embarking on an $100 million investments into facility upgrades. This is the one major area where Miami is lacking when you consider the previous stops for Cristobal and Radakovich had top tier facilities.
I recently wrote Miami is no longer feared and really it shouldn’t be feared right now.
The past two decades the Hurricanes achievement level have barely attained mediocre status.
For a program that is in the right part of the country where the football talent per capita is amongst the highest in the country, to be located in an area where people desire to go, to have the branding The U has, to have yielded the results is disappointing.
It would be easy for me to say Miami will be back, but every prognosticator has been saying the same thing since Miami upset Oklahoma back when Randy Shannon was coaching the Canes.
This is the most significant investment Miami has put into getting back, Cristobal is about as good as you can get as a coach, Radakovich is about as good as you can get for as an AD, the facility improvements are necessary, and we really don’t know how NIL was impact the Canes yet.
To me the problem Miami always had is the internal struggles. It dated back to Tad Foote’s struggles with Jimmy Johnson. It happened during the Pell Grant Scandal. It happened when Nevin Shapiro gave a check to Donna Shalala at a Lucky Strike Lanes and now there is questions from Miami faculty how did the university pay for Mario Cristobal?
With all the key ingredients in front of Miami that should make the program “Alabama-elite,” Miami stands in its own way from truly being amongst the nation’s elite and it will be how Cristobal and Radakovich handle those obstacles that will determine if they will be successful and sound the Hurricane Warning sirens.