Cristobal: ‘Best recruiting class’ kept him at FIU

Mario Cristobal is a Miami native, played his college football

for the Hurricanes and often speaks of how appreciative he is to

have the chance to coach in his hometown at Florida

International.

He’s in no hurry to leave, either.

Despite being pursued by Rutgers to replace Greg Schiano,

Cristobal said Monday night he is staying with the Panthers, the

once-moribund program he has led to consecutive bowl appearances.

While there were widespread reports Monday that he was leaving FIU,

Cristobal insisted to his team that he remains committed – and said

Wednesday’s signing day will be a big day for the program.

About 45 players visited Cristobal’s office Monday, prompting

the coach to call an impromptu team meeting to alleviate their

concerns.

”This will be the best recruiting class we have ever had,”

Cristobal said in an email to The Associated Press on Monday

night.

Rutgers turned to assistant Kyle Flood to replace Schiano as the

team’s coach, hours after Cristobal passed on a chance to take

over, a person with knowledge of the decision told the AP on

Monday. Schiano left Rutgers to coach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Known as a strong recruiter, Cristobal has energized the FIU

program. FIU lost 31 of its first 40 games under Cristobal, and has

gone 15-7 since, winning a bowl game to close the 2010 season and

losing to Marshall this season in another postseason

appearance.

That success has led to interest from other schools. Cristobal,

who also was a candidate to take over at Pittsburgh several weeks

ago, got a four-year extension from FIU in August, and it’s

believed that talks have been ongoing about yet another deal.

Even though he’s a Miami native, Cristobal – who makes just

under $500,000 annually at FIU in base salary – has Rutgers ties,

having once been an assistant at the school.

”We have built a great program,” Cristobal said. ”It is a

great time to be a Panther.”