Best Coach (2011)

Mario Cristobal

If not for Mario Cristobal and his scrappy, young FIU Golden Panthers, this city would be devoid of good football teams, what with the Dolphins and Canes sucking things up in monumental ways. During Cristobal's four seasons as the Golden Panthers head coach, we've seen the team go from so-so to SoFla darlings, firmly planting their flag in the nation's college-football-watching psyche. As Cristobal's recruiting classes took shape in the first three seasons under the Columbus High grad, the team finished with a combined 16-33 record. This past season, after stumbling out of the gate with four straight losses, FIU quickly righted the ship and finished the season 7-6. The team went on to win the Sun Belt Conference Championship with a 6-2 conference record and ultimately snagged its first bowl game after taking down Toledo 34-32 in a nail-biting Little Caesars Pizza Bowl victory. There used to be a time when the FIU football program was an afterthought in Miami. No more!


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