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Sports >  WSU football

Three weeks before Sun Bowl matchup with Washington State, Miami makes splash hire, brings in Oregon’s Mario Cristobal

UPDATED: Mon., Dec. 6, 2021

Washington State coach Jake Dickert, left, and former Oregon coach Mario Cristobal meet at midfield after the Ducks beat WSU 38-24 on Nov. 13 in Eugene, Oregon.  (Associated Press)
Washington State coach Jake Dickert, left, and former Oregon coach Mario Cristobal meet at midfield after the Ducks beat WSU 38-24 on Nov. 13 in Eugene, Oregon. (Associated Press)
By Colton Clark The Spokesman-Review

A week before its bowl destination was revealed, Washington State set a course for its future when Jake Dickert agreed to coach the Cougars for at least the next five years.

A day after bowl matchups were made, WSU’s postseason opponent made a similar move.

The University of Miami’s football program announced a splash hire Monday : Mario Cristobal will depart Oregon to lead his alma mater.

The Hurricanes terminated coach Manny Diaz shortly before confirming Cristobal as their next boss.

The Cougs (7-5) and Miami (7-5) meet in an intriguing Sun Bowl rematch at 9 a.m. PST on Dec. 31 in El Paso, Texas.

According to a Miami spokesman, a decision hasn’t been made official concerning who will coach the Hurricanes at Sun Bowl Stadium. It’s widely presumed that an assistant will serve in the interim – as is common under such circumstances.

This isn’t a unique situation for the Hurricanes. The program has played twice previously in the Sun Bowl under an acting coach.

Fourth-year coach Randy Shannon was fired after the 2010 regular season and offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland took over for a 33-17 loss to Notre Dame in El Paso.

In 2015, tight ends coach Larry Scott filled in for the remainder of the year after Al Golden was sent packing at midseason following the Hurricanes’ most lopsided defeat in program history – a 58-0 whitewashing suffered at home against Clemson.

Scott’s Hurricanes fell 20-14 to Mike Leach’s Cougars in a snowy Sun Bowl that year.

Diaz, formerly Miami’s defensive coordinator, compiled a 21-15 record across three seasons at the helm. He went 0-2 in bowl games and, although the Hurricanes showed signs of growth in the past two years, he couldn’t bring “The U” back into the spotlight it so craves.

The Sun Bowl committee emphasized the teams’ momentum as key in the selection process. WSU has won six of its last eight games, and the Hurricanes are 5-1 since Oct. 23 – but their late-season surge apparently wasn’t enough to convince the school’s leadership to retain Diaz.

Reports suggesting that Miami was shopping for a coach had been circulating for some time.

“I am disappointed in the University’s decision and the manner in which this played out the last two weeks,” Diaz said in a written statement. “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.”

Miami, which hasn’t won a bowl game since 2016, is seeking a return to national prominence, and Cristobal has a background playing for powerhouse Hurricane teams. A Miami native, he was an offensive tackle under coach Dennis Erickson for two national championship squads, in 1989 and ‘91.

Cristobal’s Oregon teams went a combined 35-13 and claimed two Pac-12 crowns in four years. The Ducks, who topped the Cougs 38-24 on Nov. 13, were mauled by Utah 38-10 on Friday in the conference championship game.

“It’s painful to leave – very difficult,” Cristobal said Monday on a radio show with the Oregonian’s John Canzano. “I’m very thankful. I get it. I get the profession and the backlash that comes with the departure, but I’m going to go coach where I played. Nothing but gratitude and well wishes for Oregon.”

According to the Miami Herald, Cristobal’s contract runs 10 years and he will be joined at Miami by several of his UO assistants.

So it’s assumed that most of the Hurricane staffers on the sideline at the Sun Bowl will be coaching their final game for Miami.

WSU is also in the midst of a program makeover, though not to the same degree . A few of the Cougars’ offensive assistants probably won’t return to the Pullman school next season.

Dickert has reportedly hired a new offensive coordinator and O-line coach. But athletic director Pat Chun said Sunday he expects all of WSU’s current staffers to be present in El Paso.

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