A little over a year ago, Mario Cristobal was one of college football's rising stars. The Cuban-American with the Miami ties had just gone 8-5 in back-to-back seasons at Florida International and taken the program to their first two bowl games in school history. As the Star-Ledger reported in January 2012, Cristobal turned down the offer to replace one of his mentors, Greg Schiano, at Rutgers.
Now, in February 2013, Cristobal is, according to a CBS Sports report, set to take an assistant job coaching offensive line in Tuscaloosa. After a surprising firing at Florida International following an injury-riddled 3-9 season, one of the game's brightest stars had been turned into just another guy looking for work.
We talked about it with Manny Diaz and how he went from the next big thing to a guy with a lot to prove following a disaster of a 2012 defensive campaign. Well, now we've got Cristobal as the guy who even further epitomizes the fleeting nature of success at the collegiate coaching level.
A lot of folks that are auxiliary to the game, fans and media, beat the one-sided drum of loyalty. They beat it when it comes to recruits and commitments, and they most certainly bang it hard where coaches and taking promotions are concerned.
Coaching is these guys' livelihoods. It is how they put food on the table. It's how they put money in the bank and kids through school. Just like you're a banker or a garbageman or a teacher, this is their profession, and like every profession, greater opportunity, success or security is the career goal.
Last year, Cristobal, did the "loyal" thing by staying with the Panthers. That loyalty proved useless as the school cut their ties with him after a season that saw losses pile up and players drop all over the field due to injuries. Biding his time, sticking with FIU until the "right job" came around did nothing positive for Mario Cristobal.
Sustaining success, especially at a program that is not flush with resources, is not an easy thing. Coaches have to get paid, and more importantly get job security, any way they can. Most often, that means taking the promotions and squeezing for extensions, as they come.
Everything about college football, screams fluidity. The limited time that coaches get with players. The continuous hired-fired cycle where guys are promoted, demoted and moved laterally in an effort to find a mix. Along with those coaching moves comes winning and losing, all of which combine to impact the recruiting landscape and outlook for a given program and its staff.
Winning for a season is hard work. Putting together more than seven or eight wins, for most schools, comes with a hefty blend of luck and overachievement, a perfect storm for success. Hell, for some schools getting to the six-win threshold is a lofty goal most seasons.
While fans tend to ignore just how hard it is to win, coaches certainly understand it. Most opt for the security. Most opt for the move that will keep them collecting checks. Most opt for the better opportunity. And then other guys opt to stay put and learn that success is a fickle mistress, the hard way.
If your school is a "step-up" job, there's a reason for that; it's hard to win there. If you can rack up some wins at a step-up job, the next step should be up, and out. For all of the love that Chris Petersen and Gary Patterson have got for turning their gigs into permanent players, there are far more guys who end up fired and looking for work.
Guys like Mario Cristobal.