CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Mario Cristobal can tell you every detail of what transpired during his last practice as a Miami assistant coach in 2006. Or more specifically, what happened at the end of that practice.
As darkness fell, Cristobal stood with a few colleagues, debating whether he should leave his alma mater and become head coach at Florida International.
The decision, ultimately, was to say yes.
"I do remember it," Cristobal said. "And I know I've grown tremendously from it."
He's about to show Miami how he's grown in those six seasons since that night on the Greentree Practice Fields. Cristobal spoke out Friday for the first time since being hired as the Hurricanes' associate head coach under Al Golden, a move than came about a month after the two-time national championship winning player at Miami was fired by FIU after six seasons.
"It's an incredible feeling," Cristobal said. "I think everyone knows how I feel about the University of Miami. I'm excited about just getting back here, just getting to work right away. That's something I've always been attracted to when I was a player here. It was just engrained, embedded in your mind ... and now to join a staff that's the exact same way, it's an incredible feeling. So let's hit the ground running."
Cristobal won two national championships at Miami as a player, then was a graduate assistant at the school and eventually an assistant coach.
And when he was fired by FIU, Miami was his first phone call.
At the moment Golden heard Cristobal was let go by the Panthers — despite taking what was considered the worst program in the nation at the time of his hiring to a pair of bowl games — he called him up to offer condolences. And out of that conversation, an offer eventually came for Cristobal, whose closet is still filled with Hurricanes' gear from the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, to return home.
On Friday, Cristobal proudly showed off his latest piece of Miami clothing, an orange-and-green jacket.
"Coach Golden does things the right way," Cristobal said. "He has a true care factor, which I think we all know goes extremely far when you're a teacher."
Also Friday, the Atlantic Coast Conference released its new scheduling model for the 2013 season.
Miami will play host to Virginia Tech (for the second straight year), Wake Forest, Virginia and Georgia Tech. The Hurricanes will play ACC road games at Duke (also for the second straight year), Florida State, North Carolina and new conference member Pittsburgh.