Mario Cristobal has said many times that being the head football coach of the University of Oregon Ducks is his dream job.
But is it possible that there might be another job that he would value more, like a dream-dream job?
I mean, what if Alabama came calling? Coach C. is known by that program since he was offensive coordinator there for years. We know that Mario has the greatest admiration for the Tide program since he often visits Tuscaloosa to keep his fangs sharpened so he can build Oregon into what he has called “Alabama of the West”.
So why would he settle for Alabama of the West if he could have the real thing?
On Halloween, Nick Saban turns 69. How long he will continue is anybody’s guess but one thing is certain: as time passes, the likelihood of his departure increases exponentially which makes this a good time to consider who Alabama might replace him with.
Let’s take a look at some of the traditional elements of past hirings for the Tide.
- They don’t hire from within
Since 1997, the Tide has not elevated any assistant coach to the head coaching position and since 1958, they have only done it twice. That means that current offensive coordinator and former USC head coach Steve Sarkisian and defensive coordinator Pete Golding are not likely candidates.
2. They don’t hire currently active SEC head coaches
Not since 1947 has Alabama hired a head coach directly away from another SEC team. That means that Jeremy Pruitt (Tennessee) and Kirby Smart (Georgia) are probably not on the Tide radar.
So far, so good for Mario Cristobal.
3. They don’t hire directly from non-prestigious programs
It’s been 70 years since Alabama hired a coach from a lower division (ie: FCS) which is a likely disqualifier for Curt Cignetti of James Madison. It also doesn’t hire directly from unremarkable FBS programs which is a likely disqualifier for red-hot Bill Napier of the University of Louisiana as well as Geoff Collins at Georgia Tech.
4. They reject resumes that have glaring administrative controversies
Yes, Nick Saban had regrettable controversy when he left the Miami Dolphins to take the Alabama job but his beef was with the media and not a school administration.
UA overlooked that indiscretion but won’t likely overlook Lane Kiffin’s snarls at the admins of Tennessee nor Jim McElwain’s contentious finale at Florida.
Mario Cristobal was rumored to have squabbles with Florida International athletic director Pete Garcia but those remained subterranean and were later offset by the Miami Herald which called Garcia, an “autocrat athletic director and one-man tempest.”
5. Alabama hires coaches with stellar records in their current programs
It’s been nearly 50 years since Alabama hired a coach who had a losing record at his current school (Bill Curry, 1987, 31-43-4).
Cristobal is 21-6 in two full seasons at Oregon. Overall, his career record is 48-54 but most of the losses came after he took over an FIU program that had never had a winning season and was in the midst of a 23 game losing streak.
6. They hire coaches with recent NFL experience
This is a big one because since 1983, it’s been nearly absolute.
Since then, UA has hired seven head coaches (not counting interims). Six of them had success in the NFL (Nick Saban, Mike Shula, Mike DuBose, Gene Stallings, Bill Curry, and Ray Perkins.)
Cristobal has no NFL coaching experience.
Does that sound like a disqualifier?
It might be especially when one considers that the only time the Tide hired a non-NFL was after the program had fallen to a two-year losing record and had been served with severe NCAA sanctions.
Not exactly an “A” list kind of program.
Familiarity is a weighty part of Alabama hiring a football coach. Mario has plenty of that. Whether that is enough to offset his lack of NFL experience is a question yet to be answered.
Mario Cristobal is arguably the fastest rising head coach in the business. It’s my belief that if Saban retires in the next two years, Coach C. will be the first call Alabama makes.
The big, giant, orange elephant
Am I forgetting that big, giant, orange elephant in the room—Dabo Swinney of Clemson?
Not at all. Swinney was never an assistant at Alabama and I don’t think he will be offered and, if he is, I don’t think he will accept.
Alabama doesn’t have a history of hiring the most successful adversarial coach in the country and Swinney has little reason to leave Clemson. He’s creating his own legend right where he is, he has his own kind of players, he’s won national championships, and his autonomy at Clemson is nearly absolute.
For now, I believe that when Saban retires, the Tide will adhere to decades of hiring tradition and their first call will be to Mario Cristobal.
If so, it won’t be the first time.
Remember when Coach C. was dismissed from FIU? He was immediately hired by Miami of Florida. Soon thereafter, Alabama called. Cristobal already had a job and it was with his beloved alma mater. But when Alabama called, Mario answered and his answer was “yes”.
That was the first time, but probably not the last.
I don’t think it is a question of “if”, but rather a question of “when”.