The amazing and costly transmutation of Mario Cristobal took just 168 days.
On June 20, Cristobal was awarded a new five-year contract by Florida International University, pronounced by his athletic director as one of the top head football coaches in America.
The FIU sports flacks reveled in the coachs considerable achievements. The Panthers are now one of only 50 programs across the country who have participated in back-to-back bowl games in 2010 and 2011. Since Cristobal took over the program in 2006, only three other Sun Belt schools have had consecutive bowl appearances and FIU could equal the record of three straight with a postseason berth in 2012.
Cristobals new contract, in addition to $100,000 in signing bonuses, promised him $453,183 a year, an unimaginable sum to most of us mortals, but a relatively middling salary among college football coaches. The Miami Heralds David Neal reported in June that sources say he didnt think it would be right to ask for much more money with the state education system so economically troubled.
Such misplaced altruism. The well-known budget problems suffered lately by Florida universities hardly extend to their football programs. FIU apparently calculated that it was worth $900,000 and change to rid itself of this dog formerly known as one of the top head football coaches in America.
Such a lurching mood change at FIU might have had the look of institutional schizophrenia, even without the buyout. But theres more to consider here than severance due Cristobal and whatever salary obligations are still owed his assistants. Theres also the money it will take to lure a coach to FIU with the kind of reputation that might lend logic to an illogical exercise.
To be fair to FIU, this firing was just another burst of fiscal insanity in a college football conglomeration gone utterly mad with greed. No one without an office on Wall Street suffered less during this recession than major college football coaches, with their four-million and five-million-dollar annual contracts. USA Today reported that the average salary for a head football coach has risen 70 percent since 2006, back when the boom began to go bust.
The average salary for head coaches among Division One football universities has reached $1.64 million. Mario Cristobals base salary was hardly half what some assistant football coaches make at the big-time football factories. Of course, most state university presidents would be feeling flush with something close to his contract.
And weve all watched over the last two years as the lust for money trumped traditional rivalries and geographic proximity and universities abandoned their old conferences to join odd, distant but more profitable alliances. All of this, of course, is to accommodate football, with its giant TV contracts and a business plan based on a vast supply of unpaid labor. (If theres any doubt about the fervor with which the NCAA protects its system of profitable peonage, wait until the sanctions come down on the University of Miami. Measure the so-called unauthorized compensation, the stuff foisted on the players by a rogue booster, against the players actual market value in an enterprise wallowing in billion-dollar TV deals.)
The inconvenience of time and travel and missed classes suffered by athletes in less profitable sports say soccer or tennis or volleyball or swimming some of whom might be concerned with an actual education, dont matter a whit to athletic directors and their TV paymasters.