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Miami Hurricanes hire former FIU football coach Mario Cristobal

Mario Cristobal didn’t have to go far for his next job.

Cristobal, 42, has returned to his roots. The Miami native who was fired last month as head football coach at FIU, will be the University of Miami’s new tight ends coach, UM confirmed Thursday afternoon.

Cristobal also has been designated the associate head coach.

“I’m really, really happy to see Mario come back to the U,” former UM coach Jimmy Johnson, who coached Cristobal as a freshman, told The Miami Herald by phone. “It’ll pay all kinds of dividends for Miami.’’

Defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio, who coached with Cristobal when they were both assistants at Rutgers, remains Assistant Head Coach.

Brennan Carroll, who has been the tight ends coach at UM, will shift to wide receivers coach and according to the UM release, “take a larger role in the passing game.”

Cristobal was an offensive tackle at UM from 1988 through 1992 under Johnson and Dennis Erickson, and won two national titles. He coached at UM as a graduate assistant from 1998 through 2000, then as an assistant from 2004 through 2006 — guiding tight ends in 2004 and ’05, then offensive linemen in ’06.

Former coach Johnson said he first met Cristobal in his Miami home when he was recruiting his older brother Luis — a guard at UM. “Not only will he help the coaching and enthusiasm,’’ Johnson said of Cristobal, “he’ll be an outstanding recruiter as well.

“He’ll do a great job. I’m really happy [coach] Al [Golden] got him.”

Also thrilled to hear the news: former UM right guard Martin Bibla, who had Cristobal as a graduate assistant coach and was part of the Canes’ last national championship team in 2001.

“That’s outstanding,’’ said Bibla, now a state trooper in Pennsylvania. “He’s a phenomenal guy. I’d go to bat for him no matter what. Art Kehoe was my coach, but if I couldn’t get a hold of Art I had total confidence in Mario. He’s a wealth of knowledge.’’

Bibla said Cristobal goes out of his way to help players progress.

“He’ll bend over backwards to help players better themselves,’’ Bibla said. “He puts a different spin on things. It seems like he’s up on coaching techniques and whatever you’re doing that’s relevant to the game.

“He evolves with the game.

“If I was 17 again and trying to find a college to play ball at, I’d look at him as a good father figure. And if I was the father, I’d trust him to cultivate my son into not only a good football player but an outstanding person.’’

Another national-title winner who had Cristobal as a graduate assistant: former right tackle Joaquin Gonzalez, who played for the Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts. He said Cristobal helped define his career.

“I was shocked when FIU let him go,’’ said Gonzalez, who heads sales for his family’s tire business. “It will be hard to find anybody that is filled with more passion to win. He’s ready to rock ‘n roll. That’s why he’s so good at recruiting.

“If Mario has to drive 18 straight hours to talk to a recruit, you bet your [behind] he’ll do it. He won’t wait for the plane. His intensity to work and be a winner is second to none. …If you’re a lazy person, he’s not for you.’’

After graduating from Miami Columbus High, Cristobal went on to receive his degree in business administration in 1993, and then his master’s degree in 2001. He is married to Jessica and has two young sons.

Cristobal led FIU to its only two bowl games, including the Panthers’ first bowl appearance in 2010, a victory against Toledo in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. The Panthers won the 2010 Sun Belt Conference title, and Cristobal was named the Sun Belt Coach of the Year.

He was dismissed from FIU on Dec. 5 after coaching there for six seasons. He finished 3-9 with the Panthers in 2012 and 27-47 overall.

Cristobal is replacing former UM wide receivers coach George McDonald, who left UM for the same position at Arkansas.

In other UM news, former Hurricanes defensive tackle Kareem Brown, who graduated from Miami Norland High, will be the new graduate assistant coach on the defensive line, a source confirmed. Brown lettered at UM from 2003 through ’06.

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