If Miami chooses not to pursue Mario Cristobal as its new head coach, it won’t be because Nick Saban forbids him from interviewing for the position at a time when the Crimson Tide are preparing for a College Football Playoff run.
The Hurricanes can talk to Cristobal or his representatives any time that it suits them, just like Colorado State talked to Jim McElwain in December of 2011.
McElwain, now head coach at Florida, was Alabama’s offensive coordinator at the time. He was named Colorado State’s head coach in mid-December but stayed in Tuscaloosa to help coach the Tide to a national championship win over LSU a few weeks later.
It’s a tricky proposition, wanting to get started on recruiting and networking at the new place, but what’s wrong with being connected with a fresh national title and showing off a fresh national title ring when it comes to impressing high school prospects?
Saban goes through this all the time with top assistants and fully understands the drill. In fact, he took the head coaching job himself at Michigan State in 1994 with a month to go on his duties as defensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns.
Saban stayed with Bill Belichick, then the Browns’ coach, through the month of December and two playoff games that followed before reporting full-time to Michigan State.
This week Alabama is preparing for the SEC Championship game vs. Florida while at the same time defensive coordinator Kirby Smart is being identified in media reports as the new head coach at Georgia. Cristobal, if Miami wants him, is a great recruiter, particularly in South Florida, but he’s just another Alabama assistant with his name in the air and his focus divided.
Many of you are screaming, of course, that Saban has no right to say anything about anybody after the way he promised not to leave the Miami Dolphins for several weeks during December, 2006 and then did it anyway. I’m just trying to explain how this works.
Miami is either testing the waters with Cristobal’s agent right now and trying to set up an interview following the SEC title game or else the Hurricanes just aren’t that interested in the guy. There’s no middle ground.
Meanwhile, here is what Saban said Monday in response to a question about the way McElwain handled the transition, signing a contract to be a head coach elsewhere but choosing to stay at Alabama and finish his job there.
“It speaks volumes of his character and his professionalism,” Saban said. “You know, he got the job and we did everything we could to help him get the job. He came back and did a fabulous job and we won the national championship.
“I think that people can focus on the job that they have now and take advantage of opportunities in the future, and you can do both things extremely well.”