The past weekend of Oregon football has been utter chaos. There's no other way to put it.
Things got started on Friday, when, in the hours leading up to a huge rematch with Utah in the Pac-12 championship, rumors and reports of Miami's pursuit of Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal started to pick up some steam. Or at the very least, they got loud. REALLY LOUD.
But the show must go on, and it did.
Amid all the outside noise that Oregon has been working to block out since the Ohio State win lit the fuse of a run at the college football playoff, the Ducks got steamrolled by the Utes 38-10, as their hopes of a conference title faded to dust in a result all to similar to the 38-7 loss we saw two weeks ago in Salt Lake City.
On the field surrounded by fans dawning Utah red at Las Vegas' Allegiant Stadium, the Ducks were worn down by the Utes and slowly resembled a team that looked like it had lost its fight. Then, their head coach sat down at the postgame press conference and was asked multiple questions about his coaching future.
As is the norm during the days of the coaching carousel, Cristobal, like many coaches, deflected attention away from those questions. Just earlier this week Joe Moorhead did the same when asked if he'd been contacted by Akron.
But what has many fans on edge, is that those questions presented numerous opportunities to shut down any speculation of him going to Miami, and he didn't do that.
However in the days that followed, he was on the road recruiting with fellow assistant coaches, checking in on players committed to Oregon in the 2022 class as well as top-tier prospects that are planning to make their commitments during the upcoming early signing period. Then on Saturday, after Oregon was selected to play in the Valero Alamo Bowl against Oklahoma, Cristobal spoke over Zoom with Oklahoma's interim coach Bob Stoops about the postseason matchup between the two teams. The press conference, if one could even call if that, was one that didn't field questions from reporters in attendance and resulted in no new or meaningful information regarding Cristobal's coaching future.
We've heard all sorts of reports surrounding Cristobal's decision, his decision-making process and Miami's pursuit since the conclusion of Friday's game, including a midday Monday deadline according to Sports Illustrated's Ross Dellenger.
And now we're playing the waiting game with Mario Cristobal set to decide between Oregon and Miami.
At Oregon, he could continue strengthening what he's built: a team more than capable of competing for a Pac-12 title every year fueled by top recruits from all across the country. If he stays he could take the momentum that comes with a 10-win season as well as what's shaping up to be another elite 2022 recruiting class into next season.
Furthermore, a roster littered with promising youth would be returning next season, which would provide continuity and a much clearer picture for the future of the team. And let's not forget the Nike brand. Cristobal has helped make the Nike swoosh more appealing than ever for prospective players, going all over the country to bring high-profile recruits from the South the likes of which Oregon hasn't seen in recent years if ever.
Lastly, if he stays in Eugene he'll be competing against one of the biggest names in the sport, newly-minted USC Head Coach Lincoln Riley, who led Oklahoma to numerous playoff berths and is an esteemed recruiter in his own right, poised to restore the Trojans to their former glory in a situation that resembles that in Coral Gables.
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Now, for more on that situation in Coral Gables.
For starters, as of Sunday night Miami doesn't have an athletic director. Further complicating matters, or at least you would think, is that the Hurricanes football program is still being led by current head coach Manny Diaz. That's right, there's all this smoke about Miami making a splash hire while the team still has a head coach that hasn't been fired.
The prestigious brand of Hurricane football has resembled anything but that over the previous two decades, as the program has fallen off a cliff and hasn't been in contention for the ACC in some time. Despite being situated in one of the most talent-rich states in the entire country, the recruiting hauls have been less than impressive and hardly national championship caliber. In response to that, Diaz has asked for more time to accumulate talent.
A relocation to the Southeast also gets Cristobal closer to the elite recruits he so fiercely covets, which in theory could make a rebuild easier. In a chaotic year of college football, the ACC is severely lacking despite familiar powers Clemson and Florida State both having down years, which could sweeten the timing even more.
Coaching at Miami gives also Cristobal the chance to return to his hometown and lead his alma mater, where he won two national championships. On the topic of being back at home, Cristobal flew back to Florida to see his ailing mother following the Ducks' victory over Oregon State on Nov. 27. Being closer to family certainly isn't the only factor at play, but it's something to take into account.
Taking over the Hurricanes program would give him the chance to restore the Hurricanes to greatness as one of the top teams in all of college football.
But does he really want to take on all that work? And do it at a program with this messy of a situation, leaving behind everything he's built in Eugene? The only person that could tell you is Cristobal himself.
Fans of both programs should buckle up, because things could get crazy with a decision expected on Monday.
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