Heated interest last offseason from Pitt and Rutgers led to FIU giving Cristobal a one-year extension on his contract last summer that took him to 2017. That extension included an increase in funds for assistant coaches and the minutiae of football operations. Before the 2011 season, Cristobal received another extension that included a raise in base salary to $453,183.
Bonuses pushed that over $500,000, still cheap for the job and the market. According to Cristobal’s contract, FIU now owes him $906,366 if he doesn’t get a job next season. If he does, FIU owes him one year’s base salary plus a pro-rated amount.
Cristobal took over from Don Strock after the 0-12 2006 season. He was one of Garcia’s first coaching hires after Garcia took the athletic director’s job. Under Strock, the football program committed various NCAA violations that resulted in 2005 wins being vacated and possessed a low enough Academic Progress Rate to get scholarship reductions.
In August, Cristobal referred to the heavy total scholarship sanctions from the NCAA levied on FIU as “a near death penalty” and said: “I was never aware of the stuff that was coming. No one had made us aware as a coaching staff that we would lose 20 or 30 scholarships.”
FIU just returned to full scholarships this season. Also, FIU’s facilities in 2007 defined “austere” — no stadium, no weight room, a bare-bones academic support system, etc.
The 2010 and 2011 seasons saw FIU finish with its first .500 regular season records, 6-6 and 8-4, and go to the aforementioned bowl games. The bowl games, appearances on ESPN and individual dynamism of wide receiver/kick returner T.Y. Hilton drew attention to the school, which is attempting to reach an enrollment of 60,000.
It also drew greater crowds, at least until this season. FIU’s only sport close to being a revenue producer played its first 2012 home game against Akron in front of half-full stands despite the consensus prognostications and enclosing of FIU Stadium’s north side. By midseason, the losses shrunk the crowd down to a third of that.
Crowds and revenue fall under Garcia’s job description. Garcia was asked Wednesday afternoon if FIU remains at three-to-five wins over the next two years after such a drastic move, what does that mean for his job?
“I’m held accountable for everything in the athletic department,” Garcia said. “My job is to make sure the entire athletic department is headed in the right direction. Right now, I didn’t think the football program was headed in the right direction. It’s my job to hire a coach that will make us competitive year in and year out and successful. Success is going to bowl games and having winning seasons. That’s how our coaches are evaluated and how I’m evaluated.”
If that’s not the case, he said, “Then I’ve got to be held accountable.”