Pitt Coaching Search: Florida International coach a front-runner

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Florida International coach Mario Cristobal emerged from the weekend as the leading candidate to become the next coach at Pitt, but there is still a long way to go before that comes to fruition.

Cristobal interviewed with Pitt last week -- and he also interviewed with the school a year ago in the search after Dave Wannstedt was fired -- but asked the school to hold off on any further discussions until after his team finishes the season tonight with an appearance in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl against Marshall in St. Petersburg, Fla.

That means nothing is likely to happen until at least Wednesday.

But all of that hinges on one important question -- does Cristobal, a Miami native and graduate of the University of Miami, want to leave Miami?

That is very much in question, according to sources around Cristobal, but a move to Pitt would at least triple his salary -- he makes a little less than $500,000 with all of his incentives -- and represent a raise of at least $1 million per year.

Pitt obviously still has to make a formal offer to Cristobal, but that won't happen unless the school is certain he will accept it, hence the need for further discussions between the two parties.

The other two known candidates -- Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell and Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst -- are considered strong alternatives if things don't work out with Cristobal.

Sources close to one of those two said that the candidate sensed that Pitt was "waiting for something" before moving forward in the process, and he assumed it was to see what transpired with Cristobal after Florida International's bowl game.

Meanwhile, Cristobal's name surfaced for the job at Penn State, but he is not considered a serious candidate for that job.

Paul Zeise: pzeise@post-gazette.com or @paulzeise. First Published December 20, 2011 5:00 AM


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