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Oregon’s Cristobal takes Miami coaching job after Diaz fired

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — Mario Cristobal is going home again.

Cristobal is leaving Oregon and returning to Miami, accepting an offer to become head coach at his alma mater, where he won two national championships as a player. He let the Ducks know of the decision Monday, his team meeting in Oregon nearly simultaneous with Miami announcing the firing of coach Manny Diaz after three seasons.

“My family and I are excited to return home to the University of Miami,” Cristobal said.

Cristobal and Miami were finalizing terms on a 10-year, $80 million deal, by far the richest the Hurricanes ever have given a coach. Diaz was making around $4 million annually. The university has said it plans to give athletics an influx of cash, in part because the school’s hospital system has seen profits skyrocket during the pandemic.

Diaz was hired by Miami in 2018 on the same day that Mark Richt stepped down; this time, the football vacancy was even shorter, since Miami wasn’t firing Diaz without a commitment from Cristobal to come aboard.

“I am disappointed in the university’s decision and the manner in which this played out over the last few weeks,” Diaz said. “The uncertainty impacted our team, our staff and their families — these are real people that gave everything to this program. For that, for them, I hurt.”

The Cristobal hire is one of two major signings Miami has pursued in recent days. A person with knowledge of the school’s plans told The Associated Press that Miami expects to complete the hiring of Dan Radakovich as athletic director this week. Radakovich has been AD at Clemson but started his career in sports administration 40 years ago at Miami, where he got one of his degrees.

Cristobal was 35-13 at Oregon, with two Pac-12 titles and a Rose Bowl victory on his resume. He and Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens were in constant contact throughout the weekend, and Cristobal gave him the final decision early Monday.

“The University of Miami made it clear — I won’t comment on the ways — that Mario was a person of interest,” Mullens said. “Obviously, we’ve been well aware of it. … That’s the alma mater and that’s home.”

Cristobal played at Miami, was part of the 1989 and 1991 title-winning teams and returned to the Hurricanes to start his coaching career as a graduate assistant under Butch Davis in 1998.

He left to spend three seasons at Rutgers, then returned to Miami from 2004 through 2006. He wanted to be a candidate for the top job when the Hurricanes fired Larry Coker but instead was hired as coach at FIU and spent six seasons there.

A four-season stint as an Alabama assistant followed, and then Cristobal spent four years as head coach in Oregon.

But the lure of home was just too strong. So the Miami native is returning again.

It comes after Diaz was fired following a 7-5 regular season and going 21-15 in three seasons at Miami. His job security had been in question for some time, and speculation ramped up three weeks ago when the Hurricanes dismissed athletic director Blake James — one of the people who hired Diaz.

Firing Diaz, though, suggested Miami was certain that Cristobal was coming. Mullens said Oregon and Cristobal had reached an agreement on terms of a new deal, but he “knew that he was going to consider that Miami offer as well.”

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