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Posts Tagged ‘Mario Cristobal’

No. 50: Florida International

Remember when you caught a fish this big? It wasn’t this big coming out of the water, of course; it was just a little guy, big enough for eating but not nearly large enough to put on a plaque and hang on the wall. But something happened on the way from the lake to the front door: the fish grew. It went from two pounds to five pounds. Five pounds to a dozen. A dozen pounds to the largest catfish ever seen in these here waters. It nearly took your arm off – no, it was so big you capsized, nearly drowned in the waters, had to fight and thrash for hours to wrestle the biggest fish in the history of the county into your arms and to shore. Exaggeration. Embellishment. Every story can be improved just a little bit. Except here: Florida International really was as downtrodden, forgotten, underfunded and woebegone as the stories made the program out to be when Mario Cristobal first walked through the front door in 2007. At F.I.U., no exaggeration is needed.

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    Revisiting the Coaching Class of 2007

    We’re now five years removed from the coaching class of 2007. This 24-member group included Neil Callaway, who was discussed yesterday today as part of the U.A.B. preview, as well as more than a few coaching luminaries: Nick Saban, Brian Kelly, Mark Dantonio and Jim Harbaugh, for example. Callaway, who won 18 games over five years with the Blazers, is the impetus for the idea behind the post, as well as just one member of the class of 2007 who never came to close to matching the promises made at their initial press conference. No coach loses his introductory press conference; for many, however, it’s all downhill from there.

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      Non-B.C.S. Teams Get Into the Recruiting Act

      You won’t find the highest-ranked non-B.C.S. conference signing class anywhere on the list of this year’s top 50 classes, according to Rivals.com. But you will find a pair of programs, Utah and T.C.U., who have clearly benefited from their new conference affiliation. The Utes’ class came in just outside the top 25, thanks in large part to an eight-man offensive line haul that help should keep Jordan Wynn clean and Kyle Whittingham happy in 2012. The Horned Frogs continued to make hay in Texas, sweeping up a number of second-level recruits that may flown in under the radar, while adding a quartet of recruits from SEC country. How would Utah and T.C.U. have done on the recruiting trail had each remained part of the non-B.C.S. conference landscape? Not as well, one would think.

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        Kyle Flood Lands a Promotion at Rutgers

        Kyle Flood’s coaching career can be summed up in three words: Gardi, Keeler and Schiano. Those are names, actually, with Gardi the former coach at Hofstra, Keeler the current coach at Delaware and Schiano, of course, the head coach at Rutgers from 2001 through last Friday. His connection with each coach spans back to 1997, when he joined Gardi as Hofstra’s offensive line coach, but Flood’s coaching career spans back to 1993, when months after graduating from Iona he took a position coaching both lines at St. Francis Prep in Lafayette, N.J. — Flood’s alma mater, as well as a school famous for producing Vince Lombardi, among other notables.

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          Unexpectedly, Cristobal Isn’t Rutgers-Bound

          How is it possible that two sides so clearly destined for each other couldn’t hold hands and cross the threshold? It wasn’t about the relationship: Rutgers knew Mario Cristobal and Cristobal knew Rutgers, thanks to his three-year stint as a Greg Schiano assistant. It wasn’t about ability: Cristobal can coach, as he proved over five years at Florida International, and replacing Schiano at Rutgers would clearly mark a step up the coaching ladder. It wasn’t about a better option on the horizon — for Rutgers, at least: If not Cristobal, the Scarlet Knights would turn their sights inward toward interim head coach Kyle Flood. No, it wasn’t about relationships, it wasn’t about ability and it wasn’t about a better option. So what prevented Rutgers and Cristobal from walking down the aisle?

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            The Official End of an Era in the Big East

            Miami (Fla.) and Virginia Tech left for the A.C.C. in 2004, followed a year later by Boston College. Rutgers broke through in 2006, bolting out of the gate with nine straight wins and rising as high as No. 7 in The Associated Press poll before splitting its last four games to finish 11-2. Coincidence? Not quite. Perhaps no program – and no coach, Greg Schiano – benefitted more from that trio’s bolt to greener pastures, one that created a power vacuum atop the Big East. Rutgers, along with West Virginia and Cincinnati, helped fill that gap. But the Scarlet Knights never got over the hump, instead making brief bursts towards B.C.S. play before ceding Big East supremacy to other more solidly-built conference rivals.

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              The Year in Review: F.I.U. (8-5, 5-3)

              To understand where Florida International stood upon Mario Cristobal’s arrival in 2007, it’s probably useful to read the following paragraph from the great Bruce Feldman, way back when he was doing his thing at ESPN, not CBS:

              When Cristobal got the job, F.I.U. was winless… The program was in complete disarray when he arrived. I have been down to visit F.I.U. before Cristobal arrived and after. There was no weight room, no meeting rooms, no film setup. It was unlike any Division I program I’d ever seen…. Many of the players had to work out on a Bowflex machine in some makeshift room. Players often had to sit on the floor of coaches’ offices for position meetings.

              It’s through the prism of then-and-now, from nothing to something, that we need to judge Florida International’s 2011 season. Disappointing today? The Golden Panthers, the presumptive Sun Belt favorites, lost to Louisiana-Lafayette, Arkansas State and Western Kentucky en route to a fourth-place finish in the final conference standings. Disappointing when compared to where this program was in 2007? F.I.U. has gone from Bowflex to bowl play. Not disappointing: amazing.

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                F.I.U. Looks to Back Up Its Bowl Bluster

                Florida International athletic director Pete Garcia took a page out of the big boy’s playbook in convincing the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl committee to select his Golden Panthers, the fourth-place team in the Sun Belt, ahead of Western Kentucky. It helped that both the Big East and Conference USA failed to meet their bowl allotments: with neither conference able to send a team down to St. Petersburg, the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl opted for F.I.U. and Garcia; the latter had feverishly worked the phones, beginning as early as the first week in November, in an effort to sway the bowl’s selection protocol.

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                  The Countdown

                  A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.