Mario Cristobal scrawled notes in pencil on a yellow legal pad during the private flight that brought him to Miami. He carried the pad into the Hurricanes’ football building Tuesday, his first full day as the program’s head coach.
The list of things he’d jotted down wasn’t short.
“It’s time to go to work,” Cristobal said.
Miami threw Cristobal his introductory news conference in Coral Gables, roughly 24 hours after finalizing the deal that had been expected for several days and could finally be announced after the Hurricanes fired Manny Diaz. Cristobal met with his new team, then went down to the practice field for the event where boosters, trustees and former players celebrated the hire.
“We want to make sure that the program here is always a program that you can be proud of, for the right reasons,” Cristobal said. “A program of relentless competitors. Always, always a team that nobody wants to play. That’s what we want to be. That’s what you’ve got to work to be, because I can’t proclaim that, I can’t tweet that. We’ve got to get together with these coaches, these young men and make that a reality. We’ve got to speak it into existence. We’ve got to work that into reality.”
Cristobal is a Miami native, won two national championships at the school as a player and earned two degrees from his time here. He was lured home after four years in Oregon, where he went 35-13, guided the Ducks to a pair of Pac-12 titles and had them ranked as high as No. 3 in the country.
Oregon made 53 appearances in the AP Top 25 under Cristobal. That’s four more than Miami has made in the last eight seasons combined.
Recruiting will be an eight-day sprint to the finish; the early signing period starts Dec. 15. Cristobal’s reputation as a recruiter is elite, but having basically a week to put together a class would be daunting for anyone.
It’s clear that he wants quarterback Tyler Van Dyke — who took over when D’Eriq King got hurt and finished the regular season with nearly 3,000 yards in nine games — to return. Van Dyke has given no indication otherwise.
“It’s obvious, watching from afar and watching film on the way in, there’s not a better quarterback in the country,” Cristobal said.
Cristobal had several family members at the event Tuesday. His mother, he said, is seriously ill at a nearby hospital and will “get the news when she’s ready for it.”
He seemed genuinely touched by the turnout, by some of the words spoken, by the chance to come home.
“What an honor. My God, what an honor,” Cristobal said. “This is incredible. This is just the beginning.”
By TIM REYNOLDS AP Sports Writer
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