The play was a snapshot of the Mispanmi Hurricspannes season.
Six different Hurricanes were within two yards of Pitt receiver Jared Wayne after he received the pass from Kedon Slovis. None could bring him down. In the end, the only players on the ground as Wayne weaved his way to a 66-yard touchdown Saturday were three Miami defenders who tripped over each other.
Poor tackling. Poor execution. We’ll throw in poor coaching because we know we saw plenty of that in 2022.
In other words, one calamity after another.
Not what Miami was expecting from it’s $80 million coach.
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Rebuilding and rebranding the Hurricanes football program is not going to be easy. And Mario Cristobal is the next in a long line of coaches who have failed.
So why should this be any different?
For a 20-year stretch beginning in 1983, Miami was the most feared and dominant program in college football. It was the up and coming brand, probably second only to Notre Dame.
Those two decades saw Miami win five national titles and average more than 10 wins per season. In the 20 years since, Miami is among the most disappointing and underachieving programs in the country with one double-digit win season and one major bowl appearance.
Cristobal arrived promising a culture change and stressing discipline and accountability, not unlike any other coach stepping into a new job. But this was supposed to be different with the hometown hero returning to the program which he was a part of establishing that dominance in the late ’80s and early ’90s as an offensive lineman and a leader.
And Miami opened the vault offering a contract – 10 years, $80 million – far exceeding anything his predecessors received.
But the disappointment far exceeds the 5-7 record with wins over Bethune-Cookman, Southern Miss and three ACC opponents a combined 6-16 in the conference. The bigger disappointment is the program’s regression and the team lacking effort at different times under a tough-talking, no-nonsense coach.
On some days, Miami mailed it in, which is the most damning thing you can say about a team and coaching staff. And UM did so with a team that was comprised of a group of players who played hard for Manny Diaz the second half of last season while closing the year 5-1. And another group of players hand-picked by Cristobal to join his program.
The message wasn’t received, which is on Cristobal.
As for Diaz, after being fired he’s now the Penn State defensive coordinator and was a semifinalist for the Broyles Award, which goes to the nation’s top assistant coach. And the Nittany Lions are headed to a New Year’s Six Bowl.
UM equals worst record in 45 years
Cristobal was one the top three splash hires in college football this season, joining Lincoln Riley to USC and Brian Kelly to LSU.
Two of those are playing this week in their conference championship game.
The third equaled his school’s worst record in the last 45 years.
And it’s not a stretch to say Cristobal was entering the best situation. He took over a team that was 7-5 and won five of its final six games. Riley inherited a 4-8 mess and Kelly joined a program three years removed from a national championship but 6-7 in 2021.
Miami’s only other 5-7 season since 1977 was in 2007, Randy Shannon’s first season.
Shannon was the 11th highest paid coach in the ACC that year.
Cristobal is among the top 10 highest paid coaches in the country this year.
Miami’s season ended with that 42-16 loss to Pittsburgh Saturday, its fifth consecutive home loss and third straight time Hard Rock Stadium emptied early in the fourth quarter. For Cristobal, it drops his record to 4-8 in his last 12 games against Power 5 opponents, three of those coming last season at Oregon.
And Saturday’s game concluded a season in which Miami’s announced attendance was its lowest since 2007.
There’s that year again.
Following the game, Cristobal addressed the state of the program.
“Setting a standard comes with laying a foundation and sometimes it is really painful and that is where we are,” Cristobal said. “The standards that we set are high and they are to be uncompromised and they will continue to be uncompromised. And we will set them higher and higher each and every year and we’ve got to work to get to there.
“There’s no way around it. There’s no fluff and there is no sugar-coating it. We’re not there now and, certainly, we’ve got work to do.”
No one disagrees. But the regression in Cristobal’s first season is the cause for concern.
Quarterback Tyler Van Dyke’s shoulder injury did not help but Van Dyke clearly was struggling in Josh Gattis’ offense long before he was injured. Miami averaged 23.6 points per game (19.4 when you discount the 70 points scored against Bethune-Cookman), it’s worst since … 2007.
Now, a player some had pegged a possible second-round NFL draft pick (or higher) would benefit from one more year in college, as long as it is not at the University of Miami.
Cristobal has built his reputation on his ability to recruit. He already is getting to work on blowing up the roster and made it clear his quick fix will be hitting up John Ruiz for more NIL money to lure as many transfers as possible.
Ruiz is Cristobal’s best hope to fix this.
“The portal is a two-way street, in and out, both,” he said.
That revolving door has started with as many as six UM players already stating their intentions to transfer and many more expected.
Cristobal deserves more time
Every coach deserves more than one and even two years to succeed. To his credit, Cristobal so far has managed to hold together a solid recruiting class with the exception of losing quarterback Jaden Rashada.
And there are plenty of examples of coaches who struggled early and received time to recover.
The one most relevant to Miami is Florida State’s Mike Norvell, who was 8-14 in his first two years with a home loss to Jacksonville State. Norvell now has the Seminoles ranked in the top 20 and one bowl win from their first 10-win season since 2016, in part thanks to a 45-3 beatdown of the Hurricanes in South Florida.
Cristobal is here for the long run. Miami has no choice. He deserves much more than one or two years to turn around a situation that got messier in his first year.
He will be given every chance to succeed, much longer than his predecessors. But time will tell if that is only because of a contract Miami hopes it does not regret one day.