Oregon elevated interim coach Mario Cristobal to head coach, athletic director Rob Mullens announced Friday.
Cristobal, 47, who was the Ducks’ offensive coordinator last season and was named interim coach after Willie Taggart’s departure for Florida State, and is considered a key factor in the Ducks’ efforts to land a highly ranked recruiting class. Recruiting is considered an even higher priority than usual in coaching searches because of the new 72-hour early signing period which begins Dec. 20.
"I'm excited and honored to be the head football coach of the Oregon Ducks," said Cristobal in a news release. "The rich tradition combined with the incredible wave of momentum that has been created throughout the season and the recruiting process is something we believe will be unstoppable, and this will lead us to fulfill the great expectations of our great University and our fan base."
Cristobal was 27-47 in six seasons as Florida International’s coach (2007-12), but is credited with building the program, taking the Panthers to their first two bowl games before this season. He spent four seasons as an assistant at Alabama before coming to Oregon a year ago with Taggart.
Mullens, who hired Parker Executive Search to assist with the search, is believed to have spoken with several coaches including former Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin. Sumlin, who met with Oregon during the last two days, was considered the front-runner for the job until Thursday night. It’s unknown what swayed the search toward Cristobal – but he received significant public support from players, including a petition signed by dozens of players that was delivered to Mullens’ office.
"Mario's leadership skills, work ethic, and experience makes him a perfect fit to lead the Oregon football program," said Mullens in a news release. "He has a passion for Oregon and a vision for our future success, and has made a significant impact on our student-athletes during his time here. We look forward to a great future on the horizon for Ducks under Mario's leadership."
Oregon defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt, who was formerly head coach at South Florida, was also considered a candidate to replace Taggart.